Sunday, December 31, 2006

Outrage at Timing of Execution

Ebtihal Mubarak, Arab News

JEDDAH, 31 December 2006 — The Saudi Press Agency (SPA) yesterday criticized the timing of the execution of Saddam Hussein. An analyst with the official SPA said the execution has drawn strong disapproval of observers because it took place during the holy month of Dul Hijjah, besides being on the first day of Eid Al-Adha. “It is an occasion which is respected by the entire Muslim population,” the analyst said.

He also found fault with the trial as its procedures underwent several replacement of judges and because it took place while the country was under a state of occupation and under the shadow of the ongoing sectarian violence and political strife. “Observers had expected that the trial of the former head of the Iraqi government who ruled for a considerable length of time would last longer with sophisticated legal and court procedures without politicization of the affair,” the analyst said.

Saddam’s execution struck a chord of sympathy in many Saudis, although they did not deny the crimes he committed. “We all know that Saddam was a dictator who led his country to one disaster after another,” said 47-year-old Saudi businessman Mohammad Al-Rashed, “but still his trial was illegal. What we saw on TV were more scenes of black comedy rather than objective trial.”

He said that the trial was based on the Dujail incident, in which Shiite villagers were executed for plotting against Saddam, and that it was neither enough nor convincing, as Saddam was not dealing with entirely innocent citizens. “What would any Arab leader do if he knew of an assassination plot? They would all do exactly what Saddam did, maybe more.”

Al-Rashed thought that Saddam’s war against Iran would have been a more convincing case for trial than Dujail. He said it was a crime against not only Iranians but also Iraqis.

“He was merely a tool in the hands of Americans and when his role was done they sacrificed him on the Eid day. The choice of the execution day is no mistake and it surely is an American message that mocks our defeat and surrender,” he added.

Other Saudis felt sympathy for Saddam. “We prayed for Saddam’s soul in Madinah with my family today,” said Mariam Saleh, a 29-year-old teacher. She felt that Saddam was humiliated in his last days by the Americans.

Regardless of what he did before, “he is still a Muslim and thus deserves our mercy,” said Mariam.

Mohammad Al-Assaf, 33, had different opinion of Saddam’s execution on the Eid Al-Adha day. “Now they made him a martyr,” he said.

He said the Americans are not naïve and they chose the day on purpose. “They wanted to implant in the minds of Muslims that the Shiites of Iraq chose the sacrifice day to kill Saddam as a challenge to Iraqi Sunnis.”

Al-Assaf said the sentence of death was passed 55 days ago and the Americans knew that by choosing the morning of Eid Al-Adha to execute him would upset all Muslims, even those who acknowledge Saddam’s cruelty.

“America’s claims of restoring peace in Iraq proved to be nonsense today. They only make things worse by inciting Sunnis against Shiites and fueling the division,” he said.

Others expressed sentiments that ranged from outrage over the continued state of insecurity and lack of sufficient infrastructure in Iraq to utter contempt for the US occupation and its past military support of the strongman from Tikrit.

“Saddam is dead, let’s close this chapter forever,” said Sultan Al-Otaibi, a resident of Jeddah. “The next chapter that we need to close now is who supported Saddam and gave him weapons. Donald Rumsfeld was hugging Saddam and the US supported him and provided biological weapons and delivery equipment.”

Imran Waheed, spokesman for the British affiliate of the Muslim political party Hizb ut-Tahrir, agrees. “Saddam’s trial conveniently ignored his close ties with Western governments and corporations throughout his years of brutality, the weapons bought from Western corporations, the support given to him in the war with Iran,” he said. “Bush and Blair, like previous leaders of the US and Britain, continue their close relationships with brutal dictators in the Muslim world when it suits their interests, and will surely discard them when it suits their interests.”

Muhammad Mardi Al-Tayeb, a Sudanese resident in Jeddah, asked what difference Saddam’s death had made to Iraq. “The very same day he was executed, Iraqis woke up to more bombs, shooting and people dying,” he said.

People like Saddam get what they deserve. However, Muhsin Ali, an Egyptian worker in Jeddah, said that he wished justice was carried out by the people of Iraq themselves rather than with the Americans orchestrating everything covertly.

“I never loved Saddam, but as an Arab I felt it was insulting that a former president, even though he was bad, was executed with the help of the US,” explained Ali.

Saudi student Hashem Al-Imam said that Saddam got what he deserved. “This is the appropriate end for a dictator that ruled Iraq with an iron fist and killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and forced many Iraqis to become refugees,” he said. “Today is a celebration of two happy occasions, Eid Al-Adha and the execution of Saddam.”

However, Muhammad Abdul Bari, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said executing Saddam at the beginning of Eid was an “insensitive and provocative act by the US-backed Iraqi government.”

“No one can deny that Saddam should have faced justice for his crimes against the people of Iraq and also his invasion of Iran and Kuwait,” said Abdul Bari. “Far from contributing to a so-called healing process, it may serve to further intensify the sectarian divisions in Iraq.”

— Additional input from Mahmoud Ahmad and Ismail Nakhuda

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