AMMAN, Jordan, AP – Ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein said in a letter that he would sacrifice himself for the Arab cause, seeking to cast himself as a martyr ahead of his trial this fall and possible execution for the massacre of fellow Muslims.
The letter was received by a Jordanian friend through the International Committee of the Red Cross, which verified its authenticity and said it had been censored by Saddam”s American captors in Iraq.
"My soul and my existence is to be sacrificed for our precious Palestine and our beloved, patient and suffering Iraq," said the letter, which was published in two Jordanian newspapers Sunday and made available to The Associated Press.
The letter appeared to include Saddam”s musings on his mortality.
"Life is meaningless without the considerations of faith, love and inherited history in our nation," the letter said.
Iraqi authorities are preparing about a dozen cases against Saddam and his former lieutenants but have completed the preliminary investigation of only one — the 1982 massacre of Shiite townspeople in Dujail, north of Baghdad, after an assassination attempt against the Iraqi leader.
That case is expected to go to trial in the fall, although no date has been set. Government spokesman Laith Kuba, however, said in an interview with CNN on Sunday that the first trial might start within six weeks.
Saddam and his co-defendants could face the death penalty if convicted. Others indicted in the Dujail massacre are Barazan Ibrahim, intelligence chief at the time and Saddam”s half brother; former Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan; and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, at the time a Baath party official in Dujail.
The Jordanian Arab Baath Socialist Party, which made the letter public, said its recipient refused to be identified. It was believed to have been the first letter since Saddam was captured in December 2003 sent to someone other than a family member.
Rana Sidani, a spokeswoman for the ICRC”s Iraq delegation in Amman, said "The ICRC has confirmed the authenticity of the message published in the Jordanian media."
"It was censored by the detaining authorities before being handed over to the ICRC for distribution," she said.
The letter”s defiant tone, flowery Arabic and support for Palestine were similar to old speeches by the ousted Iraqi leader.
A friend of Saddam”s family, speaking on condition of anonymity because she did not want to strain her relations with them, said the "handwriting is 100 percent Saddam”s."
Saddam”s two daughters, Raghad and Rana, have lived in Amman since fleeing the U.S. invasion two years ago.
The ICRC”s Sidani said Saddam and other such political detainees to whom the ICRC has access are normally allowed to write letters only to family members and loved ones and in exceptional cases to friends. She said the Red Cross messages are not meant for publication.
Party Secretary General Tayseer Homsi said the letter”s recipient was not a party member but an "independent Jordanian political figure who wished to remain anonymous." He handed the letter over two days ago, Homsi said. "He”s an old friend of Saddam, he”s not a member of our party nor is he a party functionary."
Also Sunday, the Iraqi government said neighboring Jordan has allowed Saddam”s family to fund a network seeking to destabilize Iraq and re-establish the banned Baath Party.
Government spokesman Laith KKubba, speaking to reporters in Baghdad, cited Saddam”s relatives who live in Jordan, where they have "huge amounts of money" to "support … efforts to revive Baath Party organizations." Kubba did not specify individual family members, but Saddam”s two oldest daughters live in the Jordanian capital, Amman.