Saddam symbolic 298.88.
(photo credit: AP)
One of Saddam Hussein's lawyers estimated on Friday afternoon that he would be executed on Saturday, thus apparently ending a day of confusion over the expected date.
Najiv Nai'mi, in an interview to Al Jazeera television, said that the US instructed Saddam's lawyers to receive his personal belongings, and that this was a sign that he would probably be executed the next day.
Earlier Friday Saddam remained in United States' custody pending his hand over to Iraqi authorities for his expected execution.
On Thursday, Khalil al-Dulaimi, Saddam's chief attorney, made a last-ditch effort to impede his execution, beseeching world leaders to prevent the US from handing him over to the Iraqi authorities.
Al-Dulaimi said the ousted leader should enjoy protection from his enemies as a "prisoner of war".
"According to the international conventions, it is forbidden to hand a prisoner of war to his adversary," he said. "I urge all the international and legal organizations, the United Nations secretary-general, the Arab League and all the leaders of the world to rapidly prevent the American administration from handing the president to the Iraqi authorities."
On Tuesday Iraq's highest court rejected Saddam's appeal against his conviction and death sentence for the killing of 148 people who were detained after an attempt to assassinate him in the northern Iraqi city of Dujail in 1982. The court said the former president should be hanged within 30 days.
But Iraq's deputy justice minister, Bosho Ibrahim, said Saddam shouldn't be hanged for another few weeks. "The law does not say within 30 days, it says after the lapse of 30 days," Ibrahim said.
He did not explain the discrepancy between his interpretation and the court's, nor could he give a specific execution date.
Meanwhile, international reaction to the denial of Saddam's appeal has been relatively muted.
Cardinal Renato Martino, Pope Benedict XVI's top prelate for justice issues and a former Vatican envoy to the UN, condemned the death sentence in a newspaper interview published Thursday, saying capital punishment goes against the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.
Some international legal observers and human rights groups have also called Saddam's trial unfair because of alleged interference by the Shi'ite-dominated government.
But State Department Deputy Spokesman Tom Casey said Thursday the Bush administration believes the trial was held in accordance with international and Iraqi laws.
"(The Iraqis) carried out their work in a transparent and open manner and they arrived at a verdict based on the facts in the case," Casey said.
Also in Iraq there is no unanimity regarding the sentence.
Back in Dujail, home to the 148 victims of the 1982 killings, townspeople were divided over Saddam's execution.
"America is using him to increase sedition among Iraqis, but we are thinking only of how Iraq can get rid of its problems and achieve security," said Hussein Abases, a Shi'ite farmer.
While the US is holding Saddam in custody it remains concerned about the repercussions of his planned hanging.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman acknowledged there was concern about a possible surge of violence after the execution. "I'm sure the Iraqi government is thinking through that and working with the coalition in terms of the impact that could have," he said in Washington.