Whoops, They Did It Again: ‘NYT’ Reporter Describes Video of Another Grisly Execution in Iraq

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The official video of hanging of Saddam Hussein’s co-defendants screened for reporters Monday showed the former leader’s half brother lying headless below the gallows, his severed head several yards away. The video shows Barzan Ibrahim, Saddam’s half brother and former intelligence chief, and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, head of Iraq’s Revolutionary Court, being hanged side by side.

They wore red prison jumpsuits. As they reached the gallows, black hoods were put on their heads and five masked men surrounded them.

After the trap doors opened, al-Bandar could be seen dangling from the rope. Ibrahim’s body was lying on the floor, chest down, his severed head resting several yards away.

The execution was conducted on the same gallows where Saddam was hanged Dec. 30.

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.”

Prosecutor Jaafar al-Moussawi said Ibrahim looked tense when he was brought into the room and said “I did not do anything. It was all the work of Fadel al-Barrak.” Ibrahim was referring to a former head of two intelligence departments.”

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Monday that executions of Saddam Hussein and the two others were mishandled and said she hoped that those responsible for making cell phone videos of Saddam’s execution will be punished.

”We were disappointed there was not greater dignity given to the accused under these circumstances,” Rice said during a news conference with her Egyptian counterpart.

UPDATE: In Tuesday’s New York Times, John F. Burns further describes the hanging going awry, as follows. His entire piece, and an audio report, can be found at www.nytimes.com.


Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki had assured the Americans that instead of having 25 witnesses, as at the Hussein hanging, only about half as many would attend. Moreover, he pledged to exclude any known loyalists of the Shiite militia leader Moktada al-Sadr, a polarizing figure whose name was invoked by guards to antagonize Mr. Hussein.

With those assurances, the Americans agreed to release the two men, and flew them by helicopter from the American detention center at Camp Cropper to the same execution spot used for Mr. Hussein, at the former headquarters of the Istikhbarat, the deposed government?s military intelligence agency.

But events at the gallows in the predawn hours of Monday had something of the same surreal and freakish quality that enveloped the Hussein hanging.

Iraqi officials who attended the hanging said the calculation in the case of Mr. Ibrahim , 55-year-old of medium height and build, had allowed for a ?drop? of eight feet ? too much, according to at least one United States Army manual ? and about that amount of thick yellow rope could be seen coiled at Mr. Ibrahim?s feet before the hanging.

The video showed his head being snapped off as the rope went taut, and ending up, still inside the hood, lying in the pit of the gallows about five feet from his headless body.

Mr. Bandar could be seen dangling from the rope above Mr. Ibrahim, whose body was lying on its chest on the floor of the dark, dank pit, blood pooling beside his severed neck. The silent, three-minute video then ended abruptly, with officials saying they would run it only once, and not show it in public again.

To ensure no illicit copies of the video were made with cellphone cameras, as happened at the execution of Mr. Hussein, reporters attending the showing had their cellphones taken away by hawk-eyed Iraqi security men.

Ali al-Dabbagh, spokesman for Mr. Maliki who supervised the details of Mr. Hussein?s execution, said officials wanted to ensure that Mr. Ibrahim and Mr. Bandar died instantly, and were not left dangling at the end of the hanging rope for 15 to 20 minutes before they were asphyxiated, which he said had been a deliberate tactic used in thousands of hangings under Mr. Hussein. That seemed to suggest that the executioners had deliberately allowed for a long ?drop? for the two men hanged Monday, to be sure their necks were broken cleanly by their fall.

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