BAGHDAD, Iraq, (AP) – The person believed to have recorded Saddam Hussein’s execution on a cell phone camera was arrested Wednesday, an adviser to Iraq’s prime minister said.
The adviser to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media, did not identify the person. But he said it was “an official who supervised the execution” and who is “now under investigation.”
“In the past few hours, the government has arrested the person who made the video of Saddam’s execution,” the adviser said.
Iraqi state television broadcast an official video of Saturday’s hanging, which had no audio and never showed Saddam’s actual death. But the leaked cell phone video showed the deposed leader being taunted in his final moments, with witnesses shouting “Go to hell!” before he dropped through the gallows floor and died.
The unruly scene was broadcast on Al-Jazeera television and was posted on the Internet, prompting a worldwide outcry and big protests among Iraq’s minority Sunnis, who lost their preferential status when Saddam was ousted in the U.S.-led invasion of March 2003.
Al-Maliki on Tuesday ordered his Interior Ministry to investigate the video — who made it and how it reached television and Web sites for public viewing.
On Wednesday, an Iraqi prosecutor who was also present at the execution denied a report that he had accused National Security Adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie of possible responsibility for the leaked video.
“I am not accusing Mowaffak al-Rubaie, and I did not see him taking pictures,” Munqith al-Faroon, a prosecutor in the case that sent Saddam to the gallows, told The Associated Press.
“But I saw two of the government officials who were … present during the execution taking all the video of the execution, using the lights that were there for the official taping of the execution. They used mobile phone cameras. I do not know their names, but I would remember their faces,” al-Faroon said in a telephone interview.
The prosecutor said the two officials were openly taking video pictures, which are believed to be those which appeared on Al-Jazeera satellite and a Web site within hours of Saddam’s execution.
The New York Times on Wednesday reported that al-Faroon told the newspaper “one of two men he had seen holding a cell phone camera aloft to make a video of Mr. Hussein’s last moments up to and past the point where he fell through the trapdoor was Mowaffak al-Rubaie, Mr. Maliki’s national security adviser.”
The Times said it had been unable to reach al-Rubaie for comment. AP also could not reach him Wednesday. His secretary said the security adviser, a close aide to al-Maliki, was in Najaf and would not return until later.
Al-Faroon said there were 14 Iraqi officials, including himself and another prosecutor, as well as three hangmen present for the execution. All the officials, he said, were flown by U.S. helicopter to the former military intelligence facility where Saddam was put to death in an execution chamber used by his own security men for years.
The prosecutor said he believed all mobile phones had been confiscated before the flight and that some of the officials’ bodyguards, who arrived by car, had smuggled the camera phones to the two officials he had seen taking the video pictures.
Some of the last words Saddam heard, according to the leaked cell phone video, were a chant of “Muqtada, Muqtada, Muqtada,” a reference to Muqtada al-Sadr, the radical anti-American Shiite cleric, whose Mahdi Army militia is believed responsible for many killings that have targeted Sunnis and driven many from their homes.
Al-Sadr’s father was killed by Saddam. The militant cleric is a key al-Maliki backer.