Saddam's henchmen hanged

The half-brother of Saddam Hussein and the former head of Iraq’s Revolutionary Court were hanged before dawn today, two weeks and two days after the former dictator was executed in a disturbing scene that drew worldwide criticism.

The half-brother of Saddam Hussein and the former head of Iraq’s Revolutionary Court were hanged before dawn today, two weeks and two days after the former dictator was executed in a disturbing scene that drew worldwide criticism.

Barzan Ibrahim, Saddam’s half-brother and former intelligence chief, and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, head of Iraq’s Revolutionary Court, had been found guilty along with Saddam of in the killing of 148 Shiite Muslims after a 1982 assassination attempt on the former leader in the town of Dujail north of Baghdad.

Iraqi prosecutor Munqith al-Faroon said: “They (the government) called us before dawn and told us to send someone. I sent a judge to witness the execution and it happened.”

Two aides to prime minister Nouri Maliki confirmed that the executions had taken place, at around 6am local time (3am Irish time).

Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh will hold a news conference later, where he is expected to officially announce the hangings.

The executions reportedly occurred in the same Saddam-era military intelligence headquarters building in north Baghdad where the former leader was hanged two days before the end of 2006, according to an Iraqi general, who would not be named because he was not authorised to release the information.

The building is in the Shiite neighbourhood of Kazimiyah.

The two men were to have been hanged along with Saddam on December 30, but Iraqi authorities decided to execute Saddam alone on what national security adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie called a “special day".

Last week, Iraqi president Jalal Talabani urged the government to delay the executions.

“In my opinion we should wait,” Talabani said on Wednesday at a news conference with US ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad. “We should examine the situation.”

Saddam’s execution became an unruly scene that brought worldwide criticism of the Iraqi government. Video of the execution, recorded on a mobile phone camera, showed the former dictator being taunted on the gallows.

On Tuesday, Maliki said Khalilzad asked him to delay Saddam’s execution for 10 days to two weeks, but added that Iraqi officials rejected the demand.

A lawyer for the two men told The Associated Press recently that they were taken from their cells and told they were going to be hanged on the same day Saddam was executed.

Issam Ghazawi, a member of Saddam’s defence team for the past two years, said he met Ibrahim and al-Bandar individually and that Ibrahim told him they were escorted from their cells and told they were also going to be executed.

“The Americans took me and al-Bandar from our cells on the same day of Saddam’s execution to an office inside the prison at 1am. They asked us to collect our belongings because they intend to execute us at dawn,” Ibrahim reportedly said.

He said the two men were also told to write their wills.

However, al-Bandar and Ibrahim were taken back to their prison cells nearly nine hours later, according to Ghazawi.

“Their execution should be commuted under such circumstances because of the psychological pain they endured as they waited to hang,” he said.

Ghazawi quoted al-Bandar as saying he “wished to have been executed with President Saddam”. Ibrahim, the lawyer said, “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”.

After Saddam’s execution, but before Ibrahim and al-Bandar’s, Human Rights Watch released a report calling the speedy trial and subsequent hanging of Saddam proof of the new Iraqi government’s disregard for human rights.

“The tribunal repeatedly showed its disregard for the fundamental due process rights of all of the defendants,” said Richard Dicker, director of New York-based Human Rights Watch’s International Justice Programme.

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