Iraqi officials are denying reports that they have taken custody of Saddam Hussein ahead of his execution. On Friday, news agencies quoted one of Saddam’s lawyers as saying that US authorities had handed over the former leader. However, the Iraqi justice ministry denies that, repeating that the death by hanging will not take place before 26 January. This would be the end of the official waiting period of 30 days after an appeal is rejected.
One senior US official said the execution for crimes against humanity could take place this weekend. Reports also said Saddam’s lawyers had been told to collect his personal effects. On Thursday, Saddam was allowed to see two of his half-brothers, also in detention at a US base near Baghdad. An Iraqi cabinet minister had earlier said a week-long religious holiday ending on 7 January rules out any execution before the new year.