Hundreds of Iraqis have applied to act as executioner of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein following the confirmation of his death sentence by Iraq's appeals court, an adviser to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said yesterday.
Bassam al-Husseini was quoted as saying by US television channel ABC that members from all three leading religious communities and all ethnic groups were amongst the volunteers. Iraq has not got an official executioner and no such position had been advertised.
Iraq's highest court rejected Saddam's appeal on Tuesday and said the former dictator must be hanged within 30 days for ordering the killing of scores of Shiite Muslims in 1982.
The sentence has already stoked Iraq's sectarian rage, with the Shiite majority demanding Saddam's death and his fellow Sunni Arabs calling the trial tainted.
"From tomorrow, any day could be the day" Saddam is sent to the gallows, the chief judge said on Tuesday.
Saddam was condemned to death for his role in the execution of 148 Shiite Muslims from the small northern town of Dujail, after a 1982 assassination attempt.
The decision came on a particularly bloody day in Baghdad, where at least 54 Iraqis died in bombings and police discovered 49 apparent victims of sectarian reprisal killings. Separately, the US military announced the deaths of seven US soldiers.
In upholding the sentence, imposed on Nov. 5, the Supreme Court of cassation also affirmed death sentences for two of his co-defendants, including his half brother. And it said life imprisonment for a third was too lenient and demanded he be given the death penalty, too.
Saddam's hanging "must be implemented within 30 days," said Aref Shahin, chief judge of the appeals court.
The White House called the ruling a milestone in Iraq's efforts "to replace the rule of a tyrant with the rule of law."
"Saddam Hussein has received [the] due process and legal rights that he denied the Iraqi people for so long. So this is an important day for the Iraqi people," said deputy White House press secretary Scott Stanzel, who was aboard Air Force One flying from Washington to Waco, Texas.
Some international legal observers, however, called Saddam's trial unfair because of alleged interference by the Shiite-dominated government.
The ruling raised doubts about whether other victims of Saddam's ruthless regime -- including families of Kurds gassed in the late 1980s -- will ever testify in court about their suffering.
But the announcement delighted Shiites, who endured persecution under Saddam and are eager to remove a symbol of the old regime.
Some Shiites are concerned that insurgents, many of them Sunni Arabs, will try to disrupt or prevent the execution.
"We were looking forward to this day so as to achieve justice, though it comes late," said Ali al-Adeeb, a Shiite lawmaker. "The government should speed up implementing the verdict in order not to give any chance to the terrorists."
Under Iraqi law, the appeals court decision must be ratified by President Jalal Talabani and Iraq's two vice presidents. One of the two deputies is, like Saddam, a Sunni Arab.
Talabani, a Kurd, has said he is opposed to the death penalty. But he previously deputized Vice President Adil Abdul-Mahdi, a Shiite Muslim, to sign execution or-ders on his behalf.
Abdul-Mahdi has said he would sign a death warrant for Saddam.
The Sunni vice president, Tariq al-Hashimi, has also pledged to support Saddam's execution as part of a deal that gave him the job on April 22, witnesses at the meeting told reporters in October.
Raed Juhi, a spokesman for the High Tribunal Court that convicted Saddam, said the judicial system would ensure Saddam is executed even if the presidency does not ratify the decision.
"We'll implement the verdict by the power of the law," Juhi said.
He did not elaborate on the statement, which implied that Saddam's case might divide the government.
Saddam is being held at Camp Cropper, a US military prison close to Baghdad's airport. The US military has had Saddam Hussein in its custody, on behalf of the Iraqis, since his capture. Military officials, however, were not able to say on Tuesday whether the former dictator is being turned over to the Iraqis now, in anticipation of his execution.
It is not clear where the hanging will take place. It might occur at Camp Cropper or, perhaps, at a Baghdad prison where the new Iraqi government has carried out other executions.
It is also uncertain if the public or press will be allowed to witness the hanging, or if the execution will be announced only once it is completed.
FOX HUNT: To suppress dissent, Chinese living abroad that Xi Jinping sees as threats are told to either return to China or commit suicide, Christopher Wray said Chinese agents have been pursuing hundreds of Chinese nationals living in the US in an effort to force their return, as part of a global campaign against the country’s diaspora, known as Operation Fox Hunt, FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Tuesday. In a speech about the security threat posed by China, during which he said Beijing’s counterintelligence work was the “greatest long-term threat to our nation’s information and intellectual property, and to our economic vitality,” Wray gave the example of one Fox Hunt target who was given a choice of going back to China or killing themselves. Fox Hunt was launched
INTERNET CURBS: People are rushing to erase their digital footprints after police given powers over online activity, although it might take years for the full effect to be felt At midnight on Tuesday, the Great Firewall of China, the vast apparatus that limits the country’s Internet, appeared to descend on Hong Kong. Unveiling expanded police powers as part of contentious new national security legislation, the Hong Kong government enabled police to censor online speech, and force Internet service providers to hand over user information and shut down platforms. Many residents, already anxious since the legislation took effect last week, rushed to erase their digital footprint of any signs of dissent or support for the past year of protests. Hong Kong Legislator Charles Mok (莫乃光), a pro-democracy member of the Legislative
‘FIGHT FOR FREEDOM’: Hong Kongers will never bow to Beijing, the advocate said, while the US’ envoy to the territory called China’s new security law a ‘tragedy’ The world must stand in solidarity with Hong Kongers after Beijing imposed sweeping national security legislation on the semi-autonomous territory, advocate Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) said yesterday, vowing to continue campaigning for democracy. Wong, one of the territory’s most prominent young advocates and a figure loathed by Beijing, was speaking outside a court where he and fellow advocates are being prosecuted for involvement in last year’s pro-democracy protests. China last week enacted sweeping security legislation for the restless territory, banning acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. The legislation has sent a wave of fear through the territory, and criminalized dissenting
‘SUICIDE’: Media reports said Park Won-soon went missing on Thursday after a staff member filed a sexual harassment claim against him this week Seoul mayor Park Won-soon, viewed as a potential candidate for the 2022 presidential election, was found dead of an apparent suicide hours after he was reported missing, police said, adding that he was the subject of an undisclosed investigation. In a note he is thought to have left behind on his desk, Park offered his apologies. “I thank everyone who was with me in my life. I apologize to my family for only making them suffer from pain,” according to the note that was released by his office yesterday. Park, in his letter, asked to be cremated and have his remains spread