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US asks Saddam lawyers to pick up effects as execution confusion continues

[JURIST] The top Iraqi defense lawyer for Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive] said Friday that US authorities have asked the defense team to pick up Hussein's personal belongings in preparation for a reportedly-imminent transfer [JURIST report] of the ousted Iraqi president to Iraqi officials for execution. Khalil al-Dulaimi told AP, however, that he had not yet given permission for anyone to pick up Hussein's effects and that the custody handover had not taken place. Meanwhile, confusion over when the former Iraqi dictator might be executed continued, with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki saying in a statement released by his office that "our respect for human rights requires us to execute him, and there will be no review or delay in carrying out the sentence" [AP translation]. Another top Iraqi official told AFP, however, that an execution is unlikely during the Muslim Eid holiday, which begins Sunday in Iraq and will last until at least Thursday.

Saddam is being held by the US military with other high-security detainees at Camp Cropper [Wikipedia backgrounder], near Baghdad International Airport. His transfer to Iraqi authorities and eventual hanging are expected to take place in secret [JURIST report], although Iraqi officials have promised to fully record them. On November 5, the Iraqi High Tribunal [official website] sentenced Hussein and two other co-defendants to death [JURIST report] for crimes against humanity committed in the town of Dujail in 1982; the death sentences were confirmed [JURIST report] by the court's appeals chamber last week. Hussein is still on trial for genocide [JURIST news archive] in connection with the "Anfal" campaign against the Kurds in the 1980s; that trial has been adjourned until January 8. AFP has more. AP has additional coverage. Voices of Iraq has local coverage.

12:05 PM ET - Reuters is reporting that chief Saddam defense counsel Khalil al-Dulaimi says that American authorities have now told him that they have handed Hussein over to the Iraqis.

1:55 PM ET - A US State Department spokesman has said that Saddam is still in US custody [Reuters report], contrary to an earlier statement by his lawyer.

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