Iraqi Arrested in Saddam Hanging Video
Wednesday, January 3, 2007; 4:58 PM
-- BAGHDAD, Iraq _ An Iraqi official announced on Wednesday the arrest of a witness to Saddam Hussein's hanging who allegedly recorded the event on a cell phone camera, while an adviser to the prime minister said two guards present were in custody. A U.S. military spokesman, meanwhile, said the tumultuous execution would have gone differently had the Americans been in charge.
Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell also said that Saddam had been dignified and courteous to his American jailers to the moment when he was handed over to the Iraqis outside the execution chamber. The spokesman said no Americans were present for the hanging.
The leaked and unauthorized cell phone video, in which some of those present can be heard to taunt Saddam in the final moments of his life, set off an uproar both inside and outside Iraq.
The storm of criticism prompted the U.S. to publicly distance itself and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to launch the investigation that led to Wednesday's detentions.
"In the past few hours, the government has arrested the person who videotaped Saddam's execution. He was an official who supervised the execution and now he is under investigation," said a key al-Maliki adviser, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.
Sami al-Askeri, a Shiite lawmaker who also advises al-Maliki, said two "Justice Ministry guards were being questioned. The investigation committee is interrogating the men. If it is found that any official was involved he will face legal measures."
Joining Caldwell in his criticism of the hanging, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said U.S. officials had questioned conducting the execution on a Muslim festival day and as well as some procedures.
U.S. Embassy spokesman Lou Fintor said Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and his diplomatic team "did engage the government of Iraq on issues relating to procedures involved in the timing of the execution (of Saddam), given the upcoming holy days. While the government of Iraq gave consideration to U.S. concerns, all decisions made regarding the execution were Iraqi decisions based on their own considerations."
Also Wednesday, Iraqi and Arab media and a government official said preparations were under way to hang two of Saddam Hussein's co-defendants in the next few days, but the details still have to be worked out with the American military.
A Cabinet official, speaking anonymously because of the sensitivity of the information, said the two men would hang "at the beginning of next week."
Caldwell said those executions, like Saddam's, were the responsibility of the Iraqi government. "It's a sovereign nation. It's their system. They make those decisions."
Saddam's half brother Barzan Ibrahim, a former intelligence chief, and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, the former chief justice of the Revolutionary Court, were originally scheduled to hang with Saddam. But their execution was delayed until after Islam's Eid al-Adha holiday, which ended Wednesday for Iraq's majority Shiites.