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Hussein transfer to Iraqi authorities qutestioned, time of execution may depend on religious question

RAW STORY
Published: Friday December 29, 2006
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Earlier reports from various news organs that deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has been transferred from US custody to Iraqi control have now been cast into doubt, according to reports from Agence France Presse and Reuters. Speculation continued on the timing of the execution, with some sources reporting that Iraq's Prime Minister was seeking a judgment from Shi'ite clerics on when the hanging could go forward.

A breaking report at Reuters said that the deposed Iraqi dictator remained in US custody in Baghdad. Agence France Press also reported that the State Department had announced there was "no change in [Hussein's] status." The news followed up on reports from a variety of sources that Hussein had left US custody and been handed over to Iraqi control. The move would be a prelude to Saddam's hanging by Iraqi authorities.

The most recent report from Reuters has suggested that Saddam's execution may depend on a judgment by Shi'ite clerics. Tomorrow marks the beginning of the Muslim holiday of Eid Al-Adha, a week-long celebration of the beginning of the Hajj in Mecca, which may require delay of the execution. A Shi'ite politican said that Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki "had asked Shi'ite religious leaders and clerics from Saddam's Sunni Arab minority whether Saddam could be executed immediately. He told Reuters they may approve a hanging before noon (0900 GMT), when the festival formally begins, or say it should be delayed."

Saddam Hussein is drawn from the country's Sunni Arab minority, and there has been much speculation that this segment of Iraq's population will be greatly angered by the execution of the country's former dictator.

A senior Bush administration official said earlier that "Hussein's execution by hanging isn't expected to happen in the next 24 hours, though it may take place in the days that follow, the official told reporters yesterday," according to Bloomberg News. Agence France Presse also quoted the official as speculating that it might take another day for an execution order to be carried out.

Meanwhile, according to AFP, an anonymous lawyer for Saddam was now claiming Hussein will be executed on Saturday at dawn.



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