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Saddam allies hanged, one loses head

January 15, 2007

The Iraqis are sure having no luck at this “execution by hanging” thing. This morning, two of Saddam Hussein’s co-defendants — Barzan Ibrahim (Saddam’s half-brother) and Awad Hamed al-Bandar (former head of Iraq’s Revolutionary Court) — were executed by hanging for their part in the massacre of 148 Shiite Muslims after a 1982 Hussein assassination attempt in the town of Dujail.

al-Bandar (AP)They were executed on the same gallows where Saddam met his fate a few weeks ago — this time, respectfully, with less torment and less cell-phone video coverage.

However, it wasn’t without a snag.

When the trapdoors were opened and the bodies fell, Ibrahim’s body kept on falling to the ground. He was decapitated by the noose!

And the Sunni community’s uproar begins again.

The AP has comment from the government and Sunni leaders:

The video showed the trap doors opening. Al-Bandar could be seen dangling from the rope, while Ibrahim’s body in a blur fell to the floor, chest down, his still-hooded severed head resting several yards away.

The execution was conducted on the same gallows where Saddam was hanged Dec. 30 in a building located in the Shiite neighborhood of Kazimiyah. Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said the gallows were built to international standards and in accordance with human rights organizations.

“We will not release the video, but we want to show the truth,” he said. “The Iraqi government acted in a neutral way.”

The government came under widespread condemnation because of Saddam’s chaotic execution in which video of the hanging, recorded on a cell phone camera, showed the former dictator being taunted on the gallows. …

The announcement drew outrage from some in the Sunni community while majority Shiites who were heavily persecuted under Saddam’s regime expressed joy. Khalaf al-Olayan, a leader of the main Sunni bloc in parliament, demanded to see any video taken during the execution.

“It is impossible for a person to be decapitated during a hanging,” he told Al-Jazeera television. “This shows that they (the government) have mutilated the body and this is a violation of the law.”

“We want to see the video that was taken during the execution of the two men in order for them (government) to prove what they are saying,” he added.

A couple of points of information:

  • First off, yes, people can be beheaded in the process of hanging. Wikipedia mentions a few cases where the “long drop” method of hanging — the one in use in Iraq — has caused a few heads to roll. The Death Penalty Information Center also mentions that hanging can cause decapitation (or strangulation, instead of a swift neck break) if the drop from the gallows’ trapdoor is not measured properly.
  • Second, I’m wondering if the video of the two executions will be leaked. I’d guess it’s a 50 to 1 shot, but who knows. And with the Sunni outcry, it may be necessary (I hope not, frankly) to do so to prove no malice towards the condemned on behalf of the Shiite-majority government.

[UPDATE: MSNBC is reporting that Ibrahim may have had a weakened neck, due to cancer, which could explain how the neck was severed.

Also, a lawyer for the two condemned men claimed that U.S. troops had played torturous mind games with them on the day of Saddam’s execution — escorting the duo from their cells to an office in their jail, where they were told they had one hour to collect their things and write their wills because they were being executed at dawn.  They were returned to their cells hours later, the lawyer said, when it was decided to hang Saddam first, then the others at a later date.]
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  1. January 16, 2007 3:14 am

    Wow, I never knew this could happen. Quite gruesome really.

  2. January 16, 2007 4:43 am

    The death penalty is the smallest punishment though it seems to be the greatest one. It just enable culprit to escape from a life long suffering by undergoing a severe but momentary pain. It is my opinion that the death penalty should be taken away and a lifeterm imprisonment is a much better alternative……….

  3. January 16, 2007 3:26 pm

    I can’t agree more with bijumonjoseph. The death penalty is not an appropriate punishment and also, society is better than its individuals. We, as society, should reject the eye per eye, tooth by tooth and act as civilized people, no matter how despiteful the accused is.

  4. January 16, 2007 4:26 pm

    I still think that the death penalty has its place in society, reserved for the worst of the worst criminals and murderers. Saddam fit in both of these categories.
    The 148 Kurds he was convicted of masterminding the murder of was just a fraction of the hundreds of thousands that died under his regime.

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