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12/29/06-Baghdad

Saddam To Be Executed Tomorrow At Latest

Saddam Hussein could be hanged as early as Saturday, one of the former Iraqi dictator's lawyers told CNN on Friday.

"Different sources" said the death sentence would be carried out Saturday morning, defense attorney Najib al-Nuaimi said from Doha, Qatar.

"I think the Americans will accompany him onto the execution stage and I think they will have a pre-recorded film that will be released [Saturday] evening if they carry out the sentence in the day," he said.

Hussein's chief lawyer Khalil al-Dulaimi said U.S. officials asked him on Friday to collect Hussein's belongings.

"The American side has just called me and asked me to either send someone to pick up the personal effects of Saddam Hussein and his [half] brother Barzan al-Tikriti, or to give them an address to which they can send them," al-Dulaimi said.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said Friday that nothing will stop or delay the execution, according to Iraqi national television.

There will be "no reviews or delays in the execution of the criminal Saddam," al-Maliki told reporters, according to Al-Iraqiya TV.

Bush administration officials had said Thursday that Hussein is expected to be executed "this weekend," but cautioned the timing was up to Iraq. Hussein will be transferred from U.S. to Iraqi custody within the next day, one U.S. official said.

More than one administration source confirmed the impending transfer.

The former Iraqi dictator remained in U.S. custody Friday and has not been handed over to Iraq authorities for execution, according to Iraqi Deputy Justice Minister Bosho Ibrahim.

Hussein 'accepts his fate'

Defense attorney al-Nuaimi said the timing of Hussein's execution was down to politics.

"Mr. Bush has decided that prior to the verdict of the [Anfal] trial that he be executed by the end of the year," he said. "It was a political decision, not a fair trial."

Hussein has accepted his fate, al-Nuaimi said. "And he was smiling. I think he will be smiling when the capital punishment is carried out."

American officials have also denied Hussein access to a lawyer, al-Nuaimi said.

The lawyer said he had been in touch with Hussein's eldest daughter, Raghad, who has been trying to negotiate passage from Jordan into Iraq to visit her father before he is executed. She wants to hear any last requests from her father and stands a better chance of succeeding if the execution is delayed until next week, he said.

Raghad Hussein and her sister Rana defected to Jordan in 1995 and were granted government sanctuary. The two have been estranged from their father.

Under Iraqi law, Hussein's lawyers and his family would be notified before the death sentence is carried out.

Cell meeting with brothers

Another defense lawyer, Badie Aref, told CNN that Hussein met with two of his half-brothers in his cell on Thursday and passed on messages and instructions to his family.

"President Saddam was just bracing for the worst, so he wanted to see his brothers and pass on some messages and instructions to his family," Aref said. The half brothers who visited were Sabawi and Wathban Ibrahim Hassan al-Tikriti, he said.

Another of Hussein's half-brothers, Barzan al-Tikriti, has been sentenced to death and is being held in Iraq under the same charges as Hussein.

Aref said the U.S. soldiers guarding Hussein took away a radio he kept in his cell on Tuesday so he could not hear news reports about his death sentence, which was confirmed that day.

"They did not want him to hear the news from the appeals court upholding the sentence," he said. "They gave him back the radio on Wednesday."

Aref said Saddam found out about the appeals court verdict "a few hours after it was announced."

Guilty of crimes against humanity

Hussein was convicted on November 5 for crimes against humanity in connection with the killings of 148 people after an attempt on his life.

Hussein's execution by hanging must take place before January 27 -- 30 days after the Iraqi High Tribunal upheld the death sentence -- according to chief Judge Aref Shaheen.

The dictator was found guilty of murder, torture, and forced deportation.

The Dujail episode falls within 12 of the worst cases out of 500 documented "baskets of crimes" during the Hussein regime.

The U.S. State Department says torture and extrajudicial killings followed the Dujail killings and that 550 men, women and children were arrested without warrants.

CNN

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