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Countdown to the Execution of Saddam Hussein

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Saddam Hussein is likely now living his last hours. Conflicting reports are emerging from Iraq and the United States, but most agree that he is likely to be taken to the gallows within hours.

Reuters is reporting that the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki, is meeting with US officials in a struggle to conclude arrangements, including the site of the execution and the fate of Saddam's body, before the official start of the Muslim holiday of Eid at noon on Saturday (4am Saturday EST).

The Guardian reported that an aide to the Prime Minister, who declined to be named, had said the execution would be carried out before 6am. "All the measures have been done. I am ready to attend and there is no reason for delay," he said.

Briefings from Washington were more cautious, still denying reports that had emerged early on Friday that the US had formally handed over custody of Saddam to the Iraqi authorities. Some reports suggested, however, that this would only occur "at the foot of the gallows".

If the execution is not completed by the start of the Eid festival, most sources agree that religious sensibilities mean that it could not be carried out during its course; it continues until January 6. Many reports suggested, however, that for the Iraqi regime an execution just before the festival, during which time most people stay in their homes, would be ideal for enforcing security, particularly in Baghdad. On Friday US forces in Iraq were said to have been placed on high alert, and embassies around the world have been told to increase security.

One of Saddam's defence lawyers, Khalil al-Dulaimi, had earlier told the media that he had been asked to collect the former dictator's effects from prison. It was also reported that two of Saddam's half-brothers, also on trial for actions during his dictatorship, had been taken to see him in prison and he was said to have given them his will.

An appeal court last Tuesday upheld his death sentence for the killing of 148 people after an attempt to assassinate him in the northern city of Dujail in 1982. Saddam was also on trial for the mass slaughter of Kurds during a 1987-88 military campaign. It is unclear if that trial, which also has a number of other defendants, will continue. 

Commentators are divided about the likely effects within Iraq of the execution. It may well further inflame opinion within the already restive minority Sunni community, but it is possible that Saddam is already seen as yesterday's man, of no particular relevance to today's insurgency.

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About Natalie Bennett

Natalie blogs at Philobiblon, on books, history and all things feminist. In her public life she's the leader of the Green Party of England and Wales.
  • Bliffle

    The news is in: Saddam is executed.

    How convenient. We’ve created a martyr for the insurgents. Whoopee.

  • STM

    I don’t generally agree with the death penalty, but in this case it couldn’t have happened to a nicer person.

    He deserved it. He won’t be regarded as a martyr by 99 per cent of arabs. They’ll remember him for what he was: a murderous, deluded fool.

    Iraq would never find peace while he was alive.

  • IgnatiusReilly

    “Iraq would never find peace while he was alive.”

    Yeah, that’s what has been holding them back.

  • Clavos

    Ahh, some good news out of Iraq, for a change…

  • STM

    “Yeah, that’s what has been holding them back”

    Who knows … maybe it was … just remember, it’s only a very small percentage of Iraqis and their foreign arab insurgent mercenaries who are out there cracking off AK-47s and letting off roadside bombs.

    The rest aren’t, and deserve a better life than they’ve had for the past 60 or so years.

  • maria

    yankees get out from irak and people will find peace

  • sonia

    3000 gi’s killed more than 600000 iraki people killed that’s a good democratie.
    what do you think mister bush?

  • Saddam will not be seen as a martyr given that he was ruthless and secular. Arabs in general and the region at large considered him a destabilizing threat. No one will miss him – except Tikrit. And it is not the “Yankees” preventing peace. Iraqi’s have to learn how to govern themselves effectively. In order to do so they need the “Yankees” to train and protect them until they succeed. The “Yankees’should stay put. Iraq is nowhere near ready.

  • Bliffle

    If the Iraqis are going to govern themselves in peace they must overcome divisive tribal hatreds, and that is not what we saw in the trial and execution of Saddam. The sordid air of vengeance around the actual hanging was just another cycle in the spiral of internecine warfare.