Iraqi officials weigh how to avoid outcry that followed Saddam's death.
By JERUSALEM POST STAFF
Two of Saddam Hussein's co-defendants were taken from their cells and told they were going to be hanged on the same day the former dictator was executed, their lawyer said.
But the two condemned men still await death on Sunday as Iraqi officials decide how to avoid the kind of outcry that followed the hanging of Saddam on December 30.
Saddam's half brother and former intelligence chief, Barzan Ibrahim, and former head of Iraq's Revolutionary Court, Awad Hamed al-Bandar, were sentenced to hang after being found guilty along with Saddam of involvement in the killings of nearly 150 Shi'ites in the town of Dujail after a 1982 assassination attempt there against Saddam.
Their executions were postponed, however, until after the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha which ended five days ago. Authorities also decided to give Saddam his own "special day," National Security adviser Mouwaffak al-Rubaie said at the time his execution.
One of Saddam's lawyers who met the deposed leader in his final days told The Associated Press over the weekend that Saddam expected to be executed and considered it "the most beautiful end" he could have.
Now Iraqi officials must decide how to carry out a second round of executions in the face of worldwide criticism over their handling of Saddam's death. Saddam was taunted by some of those present in the execution chamber as he stood with a noose around his neck in the final moments of his life.
Al-Maliki has ordered an inquiry into the emergence of the unofficial video, on which Saddam is heard exchanging insults with his executioners and shown dying on the gallows.
While waiting for their own postponed executions, Ibrahim and al-Bandar have been mourning Saddam, their lawyer Issam Ghazawi told the AP. He said he met with the men individually last Wednesday in Baghdad, where they are in US custody.
The lawyer said US officials had led the pair to believe their deaths were imminent on the day of Saddam's execution.
Ghazawi said Ibrahim told him the Americans took him and al-Bandar from their cells on the day of Saddam's hanging and brought them to an office inside the prison at about 1 a.m. They asked them to collect their belongings because they intended to execute them at dawn - the same time Saddam was put to death.
Ghazawi said the two men were also told to write out their wills. They were returned to their cells nine hours later.
The lawyer said he has had no contact with the men since last Wednesday, and had no information on when they would be hanged.
Jaafar al-Mousawi, the chief prosecutor in the Dujail case, said Sunday that the time for al-Bandar and Ibrahim's executions "will be determined by the government." Sami al-Askari, an adviser to al-Maliki, declined to give reasons for the delay and said only that "no date has been made yet" for their hangings.
Al-Bandar told Ghazawi that he "wished to have been executed with President Saddam," the lawyer said. Ibrahim "was in the worst condition. He kept crying over the death of his brother and said it was a great loss for the family and the Arab world," Ghazawi said.
Ghazawi, who served on Saddam's defense team during the last two years and says he has power of attorney for Ibrahim and al-Bandar, urged that their death sentences be overturned. The United Nations has also pleaded for a stay of execution for the two.
"Their execution should be commuted under such circumstances because of the psychological pain they endured as they waited to hang," Ghazawi said.
Meanwhile, Ahmed Saddiq, a Tunisian member of Saddam's defense team, said that during a December 26 meeting with Saddam when he was still in US custody, the former president appeared reconciled to his death.
"He constantly said the strongest, most likely hypothesis - and the one that he expected - was that he was going to be executed," Saddiq told the AP in Tunis. "He didn't stop saying, 'Don't panic. I'm ready for this moment and, after all, it would be the most beautiful end I could have."'
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