Saddam Hussein

Iraq braced itself for the execution of Saddam Hussein last night amid reports that the former Iraqi president could be hanged as early as this morning. The Associated Press on Friday evening quoted a senior Iraqi official saying Mr Hussein could go to the gallows on Saturday morning. Other reports said Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, was consulting with US officials to see whether Mr Hussein should be executed before the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, which runs from this weekend to January 6. Meanwhile, lawyers for Mr Hussein asked a US federal court to restrain the US military from handing Mr Hussein over to the Iraqi government. It was unclear whether the court would grant a restraining order, or whether the court even had the authority to block any transfer. An appeals court this week rejected an appeal to commute the death sentence Mr Hussein received for ordering the murder of scores of Shia villagers in the 1980s. A judge for the Iraqi appeals court was quoted as saying Mr Hussein would be put to death by today at the latest. Last night, Feisal Istrabadi, a senior Iraqi official at the United Nations, said the situation remained in “flux”. responding to the legal claim filed by Mr Hussein’s lawyers in the US, he added that Iraq has had legal custody of Mr Hussein for two years. “Nothing and nobody can abrogate the ruling [to execute Mr Hussein],” Nouri al-Maliki, Iraqi prime minister, said in comments released by his office. “Our respect for human rights requires us to execute him, and there will be no review or delay in carrying out the sentence.”