BAGHDAD (AFP) – Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has threatened to “review” relations with countries which have criticised the bungled execution of Saddam Hussein, saying the hanging was an internal matter.
As Maliki lashed out at critics of his government, 27 corpses of people killed execution-style in central Baghdad were found, providing more grisly evidence of Iraq’s raging sectarian conflict.
“The Iraqi government could be obliged to review its relations with any state that fails to respect the wish of the Iraqi people,” said Maliki in his first reaction to the ousted president’s hanging in Baghdad on December 30.
“We consider the execution of the dictator an internal affair that concerns only the Iraqi people,” said Maliki, speaking at a ceremony on the 86th anniversary of the Iraqi army.
Maliki also lashed out at those who criticised the execution.
“We find that this conduct is inciting sedition and flagrant interference in the internal affairs of Iraq and abuses feelings of the families of the victims.”
A number of international leaders have criticised Saddam’s hanging saying it appeared as a sectarian lynching rather than a court-directed punishment after a guard, believed to be a Shiite, taunted the Sunni former president in his final moments.
The strongest criticism came from Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak who even said that the execution had turned Saddam into a “martyr.”
Echoing Mubarak’s view was German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier who warned in an interview to be published Sunday that Saddam could gain an iconic status following the execution.
“There is surely a risk that this execution, carried out on a Muslim holiday and hyped up by the media, is creating the conditions to make Saddam a martyr to his countrymen,” he told the German weekly Bild am Sonntag.
“The first signs of this are the numerous visits to his tomb,” he noted, adding “it is still not clear if (the hanging) could lead to a new escalation of the violence in Iraq.”
Even US President George W. Bush on Thursday acknowledged that the execution should have been “more dignified.”
But Maliki insisted Saddam’s hanging was not a political act.
“The execution of the despot was not a political decision as suggested by the enemies of Iraqi people,” Maliki said.
“The decision was implemented after a just trial which the dictator did not deserve as the crimes he committed against the people, the country and its institutions were disgraceful.”
Maliki said the criticism will not deter his government from carrying out punishments against other officials of the ousted regime.
“We will go ahead in applying the law against those who abused the Iraqi people and whose hands are stained with the blood of innocents,” he said.
Two former Saddam henchmen — Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti and Awad Ahmed al-Bandar — are expected to be hanged soon. They were found guilty along with Saddam of executing 148 Shiite civilians from Dujail, north of Baghdad, in the 1980s.
Saddam’s execution further worsened relations between the Shiite and Sunni communities after the distribution of an unofficial video footage of the hanging.
In the film a member of the execution party could be heard shouting the name of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr — “Moqtada! Moqtada! Moqtada!” — at a sneering Saddam.
The execution came at a time when more than 100 people die daily in Iraq, mostly in Baghdad, largely in the Shiite-Sunni conflict, according to the United Nations.
On Saturday, police found 27 bodies of people killed in such apparent sectarian attacks, a security official said.
The bodies were found in one place near a Sunni shrine in central Baghdad’s Sheikh Marouf area.
Three people were also killed in two car bomb attacks in Baghdad.
The violence comes despite a security plan in place in Baghdad since June 2006.
On Saturday, Maliki said a new security plan was “ready” for securing Baghdad.
“We will rely on our armed forces to forcefully implement the plan and the multinational forces will support our forces,” the premier said without giving details.
Meanwhile, two Iraqi interpreters kidnapped along with an American citizen Friday were found murdered in central Basra, British military spokesman Major Charlie Burbridge told AFP Saturday.
They were found murdered near a stadium with bullets in the back of their heads, he said.
US embassy spokesman Louis Fintor said officials were investigating the reported abduction from near Iraq’s second largest city.