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Iraq puts off hanging of Saddam aides

...After the uproar over the manner in which Saddam Hussein was executed.

January 7, 2006

Iraqi officials said on Thursday that no date has been set for hanging Saddam Hussein’s co-defendants, even as the Iraqi Government strived to play down the horror and disgust over a video of Saddam’s hanging that has angered Sunni Arabs and others worldwide.

There were reports that the two Saddam aides would be hanged on Thursday, but a day after the United Nations appealed to Iraq not to execute Barzan al-Tikriti, Saddam’s half-brother and former intelligence boss, and former judge Awad al-Bander, an advisor to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said no date had been set.

Barzan and Bander were found guilty, along with Saddam Hussein, of crimes against humanity in the killings of 148 Shi’ite men from Dujail in the 1980s. The two were scheduled to be executed along with Saddam on Saturday, four days after their appeals failed.

An earlier appeal by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour not to hang Saddam had been brushed aside by Maliki, whose decision to execute Saddam on the first day of Eid had shocked many, both in Iraq and in the rest of the world. Facing growing criticism over a video of Shi’ite officials taunting Saddam on the gallows that has angered his fellow Sunni Arabs and annoyed the United States, Iraqi officials announced that a number of guards had been detained as part of a government probe to find out who filmed the execution and leaked the images.

The video, which shows observers yelling ‘Go to hell’ and chanting the name of a Shi’ite cleric and militia leader before Saddam falls through the trap, has excited sectarian passions in a country on the brink of civil war.

Thousands of Sunni Arabs have marched to vent anger at the execution in Sunni Arab strongholds, and mourners have flocked in hundreds to hisgrave in his home village of Awja, which has become a pilgrimage site for Saddam loyalists.

Though the Iraqi 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.

Prosecutor Munkith al-Faroon, heard appealing for order on the video, told Reuters that two senior officials had filmed the hanging, refuting the Government’s announcements that the guards did it.

USMajor-General William Caldwell had said on Wednesday that there had been a lull in violence during the Eid al-Adha holidays which started on Saturday, but the US forces have been geared up for a possible violent backlash yet to come.

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

As US President Bush ponders alternatives for a war in which over 3,000 US soldiers have died, there were signs he is considering a short-term troop increase in Iraq.




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