New York, Asharq Al-Awsat – Saddam Hussein’s top aides were taken from their cells and told they were going to be hanged on the same day as the former Iraqi dictator, and they have been mourning his death while awaiting their own delayed executions.
Barzan Ibrahim, Saddam’s half brother and former intelligence chief, and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, former head of Iraq’s Revolutionary Court, were both sentenced to die after being found guilty along with Saddam of involvement in the killing of 148 Shiite Muslims in 1982.
Saddam Hussein’s top aides were taken from their cells and told they were going to be hanged on the same day as the former Iraqi dictator, and they have been mourning his death while awaiting their own delayed executions. Asharq Al-Awsat interviews both Barzan Ibrahim, Hamed al-Bandar through they lawyer Issam Gazawi.
Issam Gazawi, one of Saddam Hussein’s lawyers spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat before leaving for Baghdad. He was one his way to meet Tariq Aziz, (Bandar, and Ibrahim who were facing execution in the next few days) and Yassin who got a life sentence in jail, but an ongoing appeal can send him to the gallows as well. I gave Gazawi a few questions to the two prisoners awaiting their fate, especially in light of international scandal regarding the video of Saddam’s hanging.
Wednesday afternoon- Gazawi spent one hour and twenty minutes with Tariq Aziz and around fifty minutes with each one of the three other prisoners. Bandar and Ibrahim were very emotional. Unlike Saddam who joked with his lawyers after he heard his death sentence, both men cried when they talked about his hanging.
Ibrahim: “We were taken at 1 AM in the morning the same day out of our cells to an administration office. They told us: ‘pack your things. You will be executed today! You have a few hours to prepare your will.'”
Bandar: “We sat for there for hours together, waiting…and waiting. any moment could be the one. Around 8:45 in the morning, we were told suddenly. ‘It was delayed. It is not today…'”
Bandar said: “I wanted to die with him that night. It would have been an honor….”
Ibrahim was even more devastated, saying: “That night, while we were waiting, counting the minutes – I was executed so many times….Another time? Well at least this time- we will not wake up.”
Regarding whether they knew about the scandal surrounding Saddam’s hanging, they both told Gazawi that they did!
Ibrahim: “We did not watch television before but suddenly we were allowed to watch television. We saw the exaction until they put the rope around his neck…. Then-the television was taken away from us. But we know, about the video taping and how people danced and kicked his body. It is a shame such a thing can happen, dancing around a body and kicking his (Saddam) hands.”
Gazawi who told them more details about the scandal, asked them on Asharq Al-Awsat’s behalf what they thought about Saddam’s choice, not to cover his face before they put the rope around his neck.
Bandar: “we would follow Saddam. We will never forget how he went with a smile….”
Gazawi says that the two were not dressed in special death sentence uniform, but “they wore dirty clothes and they were unshaved. they were really in a bad mood. I talked to them not only as a lawyer but I tired to be there as a human being. they asked very straight forward question, especially Bandar who use to be a judge. They wanted to know if we had any legal means to reduce the sentence or at least delay….”
On why they’d want to delay the inevitable?
Because, Gazawi explains to me that according to Iraqi law- if you don’t execute during thirty days after the decision, you can’t do it any more. in that case, they won’t be transferred to the Iraqi government. Therefore, they are safe under American custody.
Regarding how Bandar feels about Saddam’s choice to give him his Quran as a last wish.
Bandar: “I am very proud he thought of me. He thought I should receive it. But….I did not receive it yet.”
Did they ask to convey any messages to their families or anyone else?
No, Gazawi tells me, they were really down. Especially when they remembered Saddam. They really wanted to know if there is anything we can do to keep them alive: “They feel that they just did their duty to their country, which is under invasion. You know, nobody wants to die. So we are doing everything we can to save them.”
And if not?
Then, he answered, they just wanted to get it over with.
Ibrahim: “Do you know when they are planning to do? Does anyone know when is it going to be THIS TIME”.