Distraught Saddam begs for mercy: Iraqi PM

Wext: Monday, 20.September. @ 00:00:00 CEST


20 / 09 / 2004, CAIRO ( AFP ) - Toppled Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is miserable sitting in a jail cell awaiting trial on charges of crimes against humanity and has begged for mercy, Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said in an interview.

"He is distraught and depressed," Allawi told the Arabic daily Al-Hayat in an interview from London where the Iraqi leader is currently on a visit.

"Saddam and his cronies are not the all-powerful men that they are sometimes portrayed as in the media," said Allawi, whose government took power from the US occupation in late June.

"Saddam transmitted a message to me begging for mercy. He said they had been working for the public interest and their goal was not to do harm."

But Allawi said his response was: "It is for the courts to decide."

The man who ruled Iraq with an iron fist for 24 years was charged with seven crimes, including the massacre of Kurds and Shiite Muslims, and the invasion of Kuwait, at his first court appearance in Baghdad in July.

A New York Times report said Saddam was still insisting he is Iraq's lawful leader, eats US army meals for breakfast, reads the Koran and tends plants outside his cell in one of his former palaces near Baghdad.

The 3.5-by-3.9 meter (10-by-13 foot) cell has a fold-up bed, a small desk and a plastic chair, a supply of bottled water and ice and a prayer mat, said the report, out Sunday.

Saddam wears plastic sandals and an Arab dishdasha robe and is permitted three hours daily exercise in the courtyard outside his cell, where he places white painted stones around plants he tends.

Eleven close associates who appeared with him in court on July 1 are allowed to exercise with him and to play chess, dominoes, poker and backgammon together, the paper said.

Members of the group still address one another by the titles they had in the Saddam Hussein government, Iraqi Human Rights Minister Bakhtiar Amin told the Times.

Although denied access to newspapers radio and television, Saddam reads books from a 170-volume library provided by the International Committee of the Red Cross, favouring tomes about past Arab glory.

He has been flown by helicopter to a US military hospital in Baghdad and treated by US and Iraqi doctors, including some formerly on his presidential medical team, for an elarged prostate gland, hernia problems and eye trouble.

He has refused a surgical biopsy to determine whether his prostate condition is cancerous.

Saddam has also refused treatment by US military psychologists, but he and the 11 others who formed the core of his government are watched by mental health experts for signs of wanting to commit suicide.

"There is no health issue that would prevent him standing trial," a US official said of Saddam.

Saddam is being held at Camp Cropper, a heavily fortified compound crossed by planes using the Baghdad International Airport, about 16 kilometers (10 miles) from the center of Baghdad, the report said.

The camp is part of vast US army complex called Camp Victory that encompasses several palaces and lakes.

The trials are to take place within the former Republican Palace compound in central Baghdad, now the Green Zone, headquarters to the interim Iraqi government and some 2,500 US military and civilian officials, the Times said.

The Times was asked not to identify the exact building for security reasons but said it ironically is one Saddam built "to glorify his rule."

He has undergone hours of interrogation by investigators preparing for his trial, which officials have said could begin sometime next year.

But he persists in refusing to acknowledge wrongdoing or show remorse for the hundreds of thousands killed during his rule, officials told the Times.

Source: AFP

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