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In shadow of gallows, Saddam meets family

Dubai, Dec. 28 (Reuters): In the shadow of the scaffold, Saddam Hussein met two of his half-brothers yesterday and passed on personal messages to his family, a lawyer said.

Badie Aref, one of Saddam’s lawyers, said the rare meeting with maternal half-brothers Sabawi and Watban Ibrahim Hassan al-Tikriti, who are in US custody, was at the request of the ousted Iraqi leader and took place inside his heavily guarded prison cell in Baghdad.

Aref said Saddam was in very high spirits and had sensed “something was happening relating to the sentence” when prison guards took away a small radio he had been given several months ago.

“He met Sabawi and Watban and gave them letters to his family in anticipation ... he is clearly unaware of the details of what is happening around him and prepared to give his life as a martyr to his country,” Aref said by telephone.

JUDGEMENT DAY
• Appeals court upholds Saddam’s death sentence on December 26 for crimes against humanity
• Court statutes say the sentence should be carried out within 30 days
• Iraqi High Tribunal statutes say that nobody, not even the President, has the power to overturn or lessen the sentence
• Saddam-era Iraqi penal code specifies hanging for civilians, a method formalised under British rule
• The code prescribes hanging “inside the prison or any other place”
• Public execution unlikely
• Family to be notified a week
in advance and final visit may
be a day before execution.
Body can be retrieved for burial

A senior US official said yesterday the Iraqi government had told the US that Saddam could be hanged within a few days for crimes against humanity.

Aref said prison sources who told him of the family meeting said Saddam was aware of an appeals court decision to uphold his death sentence for crimes against humanity during his 24-year rule. “He was in very high spirits and clearly readying himself,” Aref said during a visit to Dubai.

“He told them that he was happy he would meet his death at the hands of his enemies and a martyr and not just languish in prison in oblivion.” Aref said he was unsure if Saddam’s third half-brother Barzan al-Tikriti saw the ousted leader.

TV quandary

Television networks face a killer of a conundrum with Saddam’s impending execution, whose hanging could be videotaped and perhaps aired on Iraqi TV.

The timing of Saddam’s date with the gallows was unclear, but late yesterday CBS, NBC and Fox News Channel reported that the former dictator would be turned over by the American military to the Iraqi government.

Several sources said Saddam’s execution would be videotaped by the Iraqi government, though it wasn’t clear whether it would be released to the public or broadcast. “We will video everything,” Iraqi national security adviser Mouffak al Rubaie told CBS News.

Meetings were held yesterday in at least two network headquarters over how to handle the potentially graphic images. ABC and CBS said they wouldn’t air the full execution if the video became available.

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