Two years after U.S. forces in Iraq pulled him from the hole in which he was hiding near Tikrit, Saddam Hussein has been executed.
He went to the gallows before sunrise Saturday, executed by vengeful countrymen after a quarter-century of remorseless brutality that killed countless thousands and led Iraq into disastrous wars against the United States and Iran. State-run Iraqiya television initially reported that Saddam's half-brother Barzan Ibrahim and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, the former chief justice of the Revolutionary Court, also were hanged. However, three officials later said only Saddam was executed. One of them, Iraq's national security adviser, Mouwafak al-Rubaie, reportedly said that the other two executions were delayed because officials wanted Saddam "to be executed on a special day." An announcer for Iraqiya television said "criminal Saddam was hanged to death." The station also played patriotic music and showed images of national monuments and other landmarks. Prior to the execution, state television had broadcast footage of Saddam's regime's atrocities. Shortly before the execution, Saddam's hat was removed. He refused an offer to have his head covered and said a prayer. He shouted 'God is great. The nation will be victorious and Palestine is Arab," before the rope was put around his neck. Before he was executed, he handed a copy of the Quran to a witness. Appeals FailAn Iraqi appeals court had upheld the death sentence earlier in the week for the killing of 148 people detained after an attempt to assassinate him in the northern Iraqi city of Dujail in 1982. Hussein's lawyers made a last-minute appeal on Friday to an American court to avert execution in Iraq, asking a judge to block his transfer from U.S. custody to the hands of Iraqi officials. Hussein's lawyers filed documents Friday afternoon asking for an emergency restraining order aimed at stopping the U.S. government from relinquishing custody of the condemned former Iraqi leader to Iraqi officials, a spokeswoman for a federal court in Washington, D.C., said. The documents were being processed and were not immediately made public. The Justice Department had not yet responded to the request. A similar request by the former chief justice of the Revolutionary Court, Awad Hamed al-Bandar, was denied Thursday and is under appeal. Al-Bandar also faces execution. The Justice Department argued in that case that U.S. courts have no jurisdiction to interfere with the judicial process of another country. Al-Bandar argued that his trial violated his rights under the U.S. Constitution but Justice countered that the U.S. Constitution does not protect foreigners being tried in foreign courts. A statement from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's office quoted him as saying those who opposed the execution were "insulting" the honor of Saddam's victims. "Our respect for human rights requires us to execute him," al-Maliki said. An Iraqi legal expert said Hussein's execution was recorded and that she hopes the images will be aired. Mariam al-Rayes, a legal expert and a former member of the Shiite bloc in parliament, told state-run television that the execution "was filmed and God willing it will be shown." She said there was one camera present. Supporters of showing the video apparently believe it will offer proof to the public. After a U.S. air attack killed two of Hussein's sons, still photos of their faces were made public. Bush Says Execution Was 'Justice'President George W. Bush cautioned that the death of Saddam would not quell violence in Iraq. In a statement issued from his Texas ranch, Bush said Saddam's execution marks the "end of a difficult year for the Iraqi people and for our troops." Bush also called Saddam's death "an important milestone on Iraq's course to becoming a democracy that can govern, sustain and defend itself." He also said the execution is a reminder of how far the Iraqi people have come since the end of Saddam's rule. Bush said Saddam's execution is "the kind of justice he denied the victims of his brutal regime." (Agencies)