Saddam Hussein's Co-Defendants Hanged

A Kurdish soldier in Irbil, Iraq, guards the Iranian government office raided last week by U.S. forces, who say the five detainees are linked to violence.
A Kurdish soldier in Irbil, Iraq, guards the Iranian government office raided last week by U.S. forces, who say the five detainees are linked to violence. (By Yahya Ahmed -- Associated Press)
By Joshua Partlow
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, January 15, 2007

BAGHDAD, Jan. 15 -- The Iraqi government executed two of Saddam Hussein's associates early Monday morning for their participation in crimes against humanity, according to an Iraqi official.

Barzan Ibrahim, Hussein's half brother, and Awad Haman Bander, chief judge of Hussein's Revolutionary Court, were hanged to death at around dawn in a secretive proceeding for their participation in the killings of 148 men and boys from the Shiite town of Dujail in 1982, according to Iraqi television reports confirmed by an aide to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Bander's court ordered the execution of many of the villagers, and Ibrahim was Hussein's intelligence chief. The men were sentenced to death on Nov. 5 along with Hussein.

On Sunday, the Iraqi government called for the release of five Iranian officials accused by the U.S. military of being linked to an organization that provides weapons to Iraqi militants and supports violence against U.S. troops.

The arrest of the Iranians by U.S. forces at a liaison office in the northern city of Irbil last week exposed a growing rift between the United States and Iraq on how to deal with Iranian activity inside Iraq.

Kurdish legislators condemned the raid as illegal. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari defended the detainees -- members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' al-Quds Brigade-- as long-serving officials who provide outreach to Iranians in Iraq.

Although the Iranians were not accredited diplomats, they worked in a well-known office, approved by the Kurdish regional government, that offers consular services and is on its way to gaining accreditation as a formal consulate, Zebari said.

"It's not a clandestine operation at all. We are working to try to seek their release," he said.

The raid Thursday was the second time in the past month that Iraq has found itself caught between the interests of Iran, a neighboring country that has close contacts with many leading Iraqi Shiite Muslim politicians, and the United States, which considers Iran a growing threat to stability in Iraq.

In December, despite U.S. opposition, the Iraqi government released two Iranian officials who had been arrested by U.S. troops at the compound of a powerful Shiite leader, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim. Zebari said the Iraqi government needed to preserve open, productive relations with Iran despite hard-line statements by U.S. leaders about the need to stamp out Iran's meddlesome influence.

The arrests undermine the confidence of neighboring countries in Iraq's sovereignty, Zebari said. "Here is the dilemma, here is the embarrassment. And that's why we have been trying to manage it and to handle it with care."

The Iranian government sent the United States a formal diplomatic protest over the arrests via the Swiss Embassy, which represents U.S. interests in Iran, said Lou Fintor, spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. U.S. military officials declined to say where the Iranians were being held.

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