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Defiant Saddam ready for gallows

india Updated: Dec 28, 2006 04:00 IST
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Ousted Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein said in a letter released on Wednesday that he would go to the gallows as a "sacrifice" and called on his former Iraqi subjects to unite against their enemies.

Saddam, in a letter written to the Iraqi people from his cell before his appeal against a death sentence failed, said: "I sacrifice myself. If God wills it, he will place me among the true men and martyrs."

Defence counsel Khalil Dulaimi told AFP in Jordan that Saddam had written the letter in November when he was first sentenced to death and that it had been released to the public after the news that his appeal had failed.

"It's release was delayed by the length of the procedures imposed by the Americans," Dulaimi said, by way of explanation.

On Tuesday, a panel of appeals court judges confirmed Saddam's conviction for crimes against humanity and ordered that he be hanged within 30 days.

In what might therefore be his final message, Saddam blamed his old enemies the United States and Iran for the bloodshed engulfing Iraq, which is in the grip of a sectarian war between Sunni and Shia factions.

"The enemies of your country, the invaders and the Persians have found your unity a barrier between you and those who are now ruling you. Therefore, they drove their hated wedge among you," he declared.

"O faithful people, I bid you farewell as my soul goes to God the compassionate," he wrote. "Long live Iraq. Long Live Iraq. Long live Palestine. Long live jihad and the mujahideen. God is great."

As Saddam faced hanging within 30 days on Wednesday, Iraq's government maintained silence about the conduct of the execution, seeking to contain political tensions his death might unleash.

Speculation on the streets ranged from a swift execution within days, conducted in secret and announced only after the fact, to a public execution broadcast on television — though few believed the latter was likely.

On Tuesday, the head of the Iraqi High Tribunal appeals court, Aref Abdul-Razzaq Al Shahin, said, "Our job is done and now it is in the hand of the executive authority. They (the government) have the right to choose the date starting from tomorrow up to 30 days."

But the government refused repeated requests for comment and declined to give any indication on when and how it was going to execute Saddam.

Shahin said nobody could reduce or overturn the sentence.

"No side could reduce or exempt the sentence, not even the president himself," he said.

President Jalal Talabani has said repeatedly he would never sign a death sentence including Saddam's. According to the constitution, he can delegate one of his deputies to sign.

There have been a number of executions in Iraq in recent months.

Saddam is still on trial with six others for genocide against ethnic Kurds in northern Iraq in the 1980s. Shahin said the trial would continue without Saddam if he is executed. Saddam is scheduled to appear in court again on January 8.

Political professor Hazim Al Naimi said he expected the government would keep quiet for a while over Saddam's execution and that it wanted to dampen down media coverage to avoid damaging efforts to encourage national reconciliation.

"They have had reconciliation conferences and there are others lined up for the coming months so they are playing a clever game by not commenting and letting it cool down," Naimi told Reuters.

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