Video prompts probe of actions during hanging

The video shows Saddam dangling after being killed.
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- Iraq's prime minister ordered an investigation Tuesday into Saddam Hussein's execution to try to uncover who taunted the former dictator in the last minutes of his life and who leaked inflammatory footage taken by camera phone of the hanging.
The unofficial video, on which at least one person is heard shouting "To hell!" at the deposed president and Saddam is heard exchanging insults with his executioners, dealt a blow to Iraq's efforts to prove it was a neutral enforcer of the law. Instead, the emotional, politicized spectacle raised tensions between the Shiite majority and Sunni Arabs who ran the country until their benefactor, Saddam, was ousted in the U.S.-led invasion of 2003.
A prosecutor who saw the hanging said some of the taunting came from guards outside the execution chamber, not the masked ones who put the noose around Saddam's neck.
The Iraqi government did not say what, if any, punishment would await anyone uncovered in its probe of guards and 14 selected witnesses who attended the execution at a Baghdad prison before dawn Saturday. Some were high-ranking officials or people affiliated with radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, a political ally of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who had wanted to speed up the timing of the execution after an appeals court upheld the death sentence.
The grainy video appeared on the Internet late Saturday. Al-Jazeera television also showed the footage at that time, saying it was exclusive.
The footage contained audio of people taunting Saddam with chants of "Muqtada," a reference to al-Sadr. Also on the video, Saddam accuses his tormentors of being unmanly in scenes that stop just short of pandemonium.
The video was inflammatory not only because the chanting was clearly audible, but also for showing the ghastly spectacle of Saddam plummeting through the gallows trapdoor and dangling in death, his vacant eyes open and his snapped neck almost at a right angle to the line of his shoulders.
In contrast, the official video showed masked executioners placing a heavy noose around Saddam's neck, without a soundtrack. Another official video shows Saddam wrapped in a burial shroud after his death, though his head and neck are exposed as proof of his identity.
Munqith al-Faroon, an Iraqi prosecutor who helped convict and sentence Saddam to death for the killings of 148 people in the town of Dujail in 1982, said he was a witness to the hanging. He said two top officials had their mobile phones with them -- even though the government-approved witnesses had been searched before boarding a U.S. helicopter that carried them from the Green Zone to the site of the execution, their cell phones placed in a box for safekeeping.
The Vatican's official newspaper on Tuesday decried media images of the hanging as a "spectacle" violating human rights and harming efforts to promote reconciliation in Iraq.
Also, Iraq reported Tuesday that about 12,000 civilians were killed last year -- the third full year since the U.S.-led invasion -- with a dramatic rise in the last three months, when 5,000 died. Only about half as many Iraqi soldiers died in 2006 as American troops.
But the number of Iraqi security forces killed jumps to 1,539, nearly double the American death count of 823 for the year, when the deaths of police, who conduct paramilitary operations, are added to the number of slain Iraqi soldiers.
In all, the Iraqi ministries of Health, Defense and Interior reported a total of 13,896 Iraqi civilians, police and soldiers died last year, 162 more than the tally kept by The Associated Press.
Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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