No date for hanging Saddam aides

Awad Hamed al-Bander, the former head of Saddam Hussein's revolutionary court reacts after being sentenced to death during his trial in the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad November 5, 2006. Iraq has not set a date for executing Saddam's two co-defendants, an official said on Thursday, as the government tried to dampen disgust over a video of Saddam's hanging that has angered Sunni Arabs. REUTERS/David Furst/Pool
 
Awad Hamed al-Bander, the former head of Saddam Hussein's revolutionary court reacts after being sentenced to death during his trial in the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad November 5, 2006. Iraq has not set a date for executing Saddam's two co-defendants, an official said on Thursday, as the government tried to dampen disgust over a video of Saddam's hanging that has angered Sunni Arabs. REUTERS/David Furst/Pool
 
 
 

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By Ibon Villelabeitia, Reuters

Published: Thursday, January 04, 2007

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq has not set an execution date for two of Saddam Hussein's aides, an official said on Thursday, as the government faced anger from Sunnis over Saddam's unruly hanging.

There had been reports that Saddam's half-brother, former intelligence boss Barzan al-Tikriti and former judge Awad al-Bander, would hang on Thursday. But an aide to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said no date had been set.

Barzan and Bander were found guilty along with Saddam of crimes against humanity in the killings of 148 Shi'ite men from Dujail in the 1980s.

Bahaa al-Araji, a lawmaker for radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's political group, said he believed the executions would be delayed until Sunday, the first working day after the weekend and the Eid al-Adha holiday.

"As far as I know, the executions will take place on Sunday, if things stand as they are," al-Araji said. "I'm not sure about what time, but I doubt it will be in the same place."

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour urged Iraq on Wednesday not to execute the two men out of respect for international law and concerns over the fairness and impartiality of the trial.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's spokeswoman said he fully endorsed Arbour's statement.

Maliki had brushed aside a similar appeal from Arbour before Saddam was executed, and shocked many in Iraq and the rest of the Muslim world by having him hanged on the first day of Eid.

VIDEO CONTROVERSY

Facing growing criticism over a video of Shi'ite officials mocking Saddam on the gallows, which has hardened perceptions of Shi'ite triumphalism among Sunni Arabs and discomfited the United States, officials said a number of guards had been detained as part of a government probe into who filmed and leaked the video.

The images, which show observers yelling "Go to hell" and chanting the name of a radical Shi'ite cleric before Saddam falls through the trap, has inflamed sectarian passions in a country on the brink of sectarian civil war.

Thousands of Sunni Arabs have marched to vent anger at the execution, and mourners have flocked to his grave in his home village of Awja.

Although the Interior Ministry's investigation has so far centered on the guards, it could implicate senior government officials present at the execution, dealing a further blow to Maliki's calls for national reconciliation.

The U.S. military, which said it played no role in the hanging and would have done things "differently," urged Maliki in unusually direct advice to reach out to disillusioned Sunnis.

U.S. Major General William Caldwell said on Wednesday there had been a lull in violence over the Eid al-Adha holiday, but that U.S. forces were still braced for a possible backlash.

On Thursday, two bombs exploded near a petrol station in Baghdad's western Mansour district, killing at least 13 people and wounding 22, police said.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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