Man who oversaw Saddam hanging recalls dictator's end

Saddam husseinSaddam is held in high regard by some Arabs for his 1980-88 war with Iran, his confrontations with the United States and his strikes against Israel. (Reuters)

Mowaffak al-Rubaie sits in his office with a statue of Saddam Hussein behind him, the rope used to hang the dictator around its neck, recalling his final minutes.

The former national security advisor, who oversaw Saddam's 2006 execution, said he remained strong until the end, and never expressed any regret.

"A criminal? True. A killer? True. A butcher? True. But he was strong until the end.

"I received him (Saddam) at the door. No one entered with us - no foreigners, and no Americans," Rubaie said in an interview at his office in the Kadhimiyah area of north Baghdad, near the prison where the execution took place seven years ago.

"He was wearing a jacket and a white shirt, normal and relaxed, and I didn't see any signs of fear.

"Of course, some people want me to say that he collapsed or that he was drugged, but these facts are for history," Rubaie said.

"I didn't hear any regret from him, I didn't hear any request for mercy from God from him, or request for pardon.

"A person who is about to die usually says, 'God, forgive my sins - I am coming to you.' But he never said any of that," Rubaie said.

Saddam Hussein, who ruled Iraq for more than two decades marked by brutal repression, disastrous wars and punishing international sanctions, was hanged after being found guilty of crimes against humanity for the 1982 killing of 148 Shiite villagers in Dujail.

He was president from July 1979 until the March 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, and was found by American forces hiding in a hole on a farm in December of that year.

Saddam was executed three years later on December 30, 2006 after a summary trial.

Some Iraqis, particularly Sunni Arabs, look back fondly on the time of Saddam's rule, especially the periods of internal stability that stand in stark contrast to the brutal violence that has plagued the country since his overthrow.

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