Saddam allegedly condemned to death

An unnamed Iraqi judge has told the Iranian news agency Fars that Saddam Hussein - whose trial is due to begin in October - is as good as dead.

"The trial of Saddam Hussein will be brief and immediately afterwards the former dictator will be hanged by a rope in one of the rooms of the Mukhaberat (the secret services of the former regime) where thousands of Iraqis have been tortured and killed," the anonymous judge is quoted as saying.

The same judge also said that "all efforts by foreign countries to prevent the death by hanging of the former dictator are useless, as the sentence has already been issued by the Iraqi people."

Iraqi president, Jalal Talabani, told Iraqi television last week that he had been told by an investigating judge that Saddam had confessed to some of his crimes, including executions and operations in which thousands of Kurds were gassed.

Talabani, who says he opposes the death penalty and recently transferred his power to authorise death sentences to his deputy, is also reported to have said: "There are 100 different reasons for condemning Saddam to death."

A legal consultant to Saddam's family, Abdel Haq Alani, said news of a confession came as "a big surprise" to him and urged that there be a trial in a court of law, not a trial by media.

The Iraqi Special Tribunal has decided to try Saddam separately for different offences, rather than bringing them all together in one trial, the AKI reports.

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