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Speculation mounts over early Saddam execution

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Speculation mounts over early Saddam execution

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An Iraqi judge has said Saddam Hussein will be executed tomorrow at the latest, echoing earlier comments by one of the former president’s lawyers. US officials have handed him over to Iraqi custody, according to Saddam’s chief lawyer, and his defence team has been asked to pick up his personal belongings.

A government official says the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has reportedly signed Saddam’s death sentence. But spokesman for his legal team, Ziad al-Khasawneh says the religious holiday of Eid al-Adha, which runs until January 7, is likely to delay the execution. “The execution of the President and his comrades in such circumstances will only enflame the situation in Iraq, blocking the way to dialogue which would permit the country to return to its former situation,” he said. “What’s more the execution of someone is not permitted by custom or international law on a holiday day.”

The time and exact location of the hanging has not been made public – and may be revealed only after Saddam is dead to avoid civil unrest. The death sentence is for the killings of 148 Shi’ite Muslims in Dujail in the 1980s. The verdict sparked celebrations in Baghdad but protests in Saddam’s hometown of Tikrit.