Botched hanging in Iraq arouses Arab suspicions

By Jonathan Wright
Monday, January 15, 2007; 7:45 AM

CAIRO (Reuters) - The botched hanging of Saddam Hussein's half-brother Barzan on Monday aroused Arab suspicions of foul play and malice, deepening the divide between the Iraqi government and Arabs in other countries.

The noose pulled off Barzan al-Tikriti's head as he fell from the gallows, suggesting that the hangman had misjudged the length of rope needed just to break his neck.

Government spokesman Ali Dabbagh said there was no "violation of procedure" in the hanging of Barzan and fellow convict Awad Hamed al-Bander, Saddam's former chief judge, for crimes against humanity over the killings of 148 Shi'ites.

But from Morocco to Yemen, ordinary Arabs cast doubt on the official explanation. Some recalled the chaotic and abusive treatment of Saddam Hussein when he was hanged on December 30.

Zaid al-Boudani, a shopkeeper in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, said: "I am very sad today, as many other Muslim Arabs are. This execution is part of the revenge campaign going on in Iraq. The way his head was ripped off shows hatred and revenge."

The president of Morocco's Human Rights Center described the hangings as a barbaric and vengeful act carried out under external pressure, probably from Iran and the United States.

"We had never heard that the head of a hanged person was ripped from his body, only in this case, which mirrors the hatred and violence," said the president, Khaled Charkaoui.

Azzam Saleh Abdullah, Barzan's brother-in-law, told Al Jazeera in a telephone call that the Iraqi authorities had not informed the family in advance that the execution was imminent.

"We heard the news on television and were shocked. The Iraqi government should have informed us. They know the traditions very well," he added.

"As for ripping off his head, this is the Safavids' rancor. They only came to Iraq to commit revenge and shed Iraqi blood. They did not come for democracy or to build a state. May God curse this democracy," he said.


"Safavid" is a reference to the dynasty which established Shi'ite Islam as the Iranian state religion from the 16th century and which sometimes controlled parts of Iraq.

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