Saddam will hang after Iraq PM's go-ahead

Last updated at 22:29 29 December 2006

Saddam Hussein is set to be hanged on Saturday.

Iraqi officials said prime minister Nouri al-Maliki had already signed the former dictator’s death warrant.

The execution is likely to be at dawn and U.S. troops have been put on full alert.

Saddam has been in American custody since his capture in December 2003, nine months after coalition forces ousted him. He will be handed

over to the Iraqis a few minutes before he is executed.

An Iraqi official said the authorities wanted the execution to be carried out before the start of the Muslim festival of Eid which begins this

evening. Tradition dictates that executions are postponed during the week-long holiday.

On Tuesday, an Iraqi appeals court upheld Saddam’s death "No review or delay" sentence for the killing of 148 people detained after an

assassination attempt on him in the northern city of Dujail in 1982. The court ruled that the

former president should be hanged within 30 days.

"Nothing and nobody can abrogate the ruling," Mr al- Maliki said. "Our respect for human rights requires us to execute him and there will be

no review or delay in carrying out the sentence."

He insisted those opposed to the execution of Saddam are insulting his victims.

Munir Haddad, a judge on the appeals court that upheld the death sentence, said: "All the measures have been done. There is no reason for delay."

Although officially held by the Iraqi court, Saddam has been at Camp Cropper, the giant U.S. base at what was once Baghdad’s Saddam International Airport.

He may be hanged there if the authorities decide not to risk moving him.

Recent executions have taken place at the "Maximum Security Office" in the northern

Baghdad suburb of Kadhimiya.

The prison is on the site of a once-dreaded base for Saddam's military intelligence agents.

If Saddam is treated like other convicts, he will be hanged under rules drawn up by himself nearly 40 years ago.

He will be hooded and dressed in green overalls with his hands bound behind his back. A Muslim cleric will be on hand if Saddam wants to

ask repentance for his sins.

Under Iraq’s penal code, he will also be allowed to make a final statement if he wishes.

While a public execution is unlikely, Iraqis will want proof that Saddam is really dead. U.S. forces published graphic images of his dead sons and showed the bodies to journalists after they were killed in July 2003.

Saddam’s execution is likely to be filmed, but officials have refused to reveal what witnesses

will be present.

Lawyers said they were told to collect Saddam’s belongings.

His brothers visited him on Thursday – a right given to a condemned man before he is hanged. He is reported to have given them his will.

A lawyer said prison guards had taken away a small radio Saddam had been given several

months ago and that the former strongman had sensed "something was happening."

Saddam, who has said he is not afraid to die, was reported by his lawyer to be in "very

high spirits."

With other executions, the family of the hanged man has been allowed to retrieve the

body for burial. Saddam’s sons were buried

in his home village of Awja, near Tikrit.

The toppled tyrant’s legal defence team called on "everybody to do everything to stop

this unfair execution."

Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said U.S. forces are on high alert.

"They’ll obviously take into account social dimensions that could potentially led to an

increase in violence which certainly would include carrying out the sentence of Saddam

Hussein," he said.

Continuing violence in Iraq claimed 72 "In high

spirits" more lives on Thursday. Khalil al-Dulaimi, Saddam’s chief lawyer, said handing the former dictator to Iraqi authorities could be the trigger for more killings and would be a

strategic mistake.

While there is thought to be little support for Saddam among insurgents, the fear is that because he is a Sunni Muslim, Sunni militias in Iraq will view his execution as an excuse for stepping up attacks on the majority Shia


In his Friday sermon, a mosque preacher in the Shia holy city of Najaf called Saddam’s

imminent execution "God’s gift to Iraqis."

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