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Saddam Immortalized by `Eid Hanging
CAIRO — Images of Iraqi president Saddam Hussein being led to the gallows on one of Islam's most important feast days and the sectarian and politicized nature of the execution have immortalized the late leader and risks further fueling civil strife in the occupied country, politicians and experts said on Sunday, December31 .
"Executing former Iraqi president Saddam Hussain on `Eid day has made him a hero from zero," Pakistan Muslim League President Shujaat Hussain told Pakistan Tribune Sunday, December 31.
"It is no doubt that Saddam Hussain had committed many atrocities and was involved in several crimes but hanging him on the occasion of `Eid Al-Adha has once again made him a hero."
The ousted strongman was executed in Baghdad at dawn on Saturday as Muslims began celebrating `Eid al-Adha, one of the major feasts in the Muslim calendar.
Grainy footage of a grey-bearded and calm-looking Saddam being prepared for the gallows was aired on Iraqi state television and re-broadcast across the Arab world.
Even the West's leading Middle East allies, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, publicly spoke out against the choice of the first day of the Muslim Feast of Sacrifice to put Saddam to death.
The European Union denounced the death sentence as "barbaric," saying it would turn Saddam into a "martyr."
"Unfortunately Saddam Hussein risks to appear as a martyr, and he does not deserve that. He is not a martyr, he committed the worse things," European Union's aid and development Commissioner Louis Michel told Reuters in a phone interview.
"The death penalty is against the values of the European Union ... we are against by principle, whatever the crimes committed by Saddam Hussein."
US President George W. Bush termed the execution an important milestone. Bush carefully measured words in a written statement from his Texas ranch.
"Bringing Saddam Hussein to justice will not end the violence in Iraq, but it is an important milestone on Iraq's course to becoming a democracy that can govern, sustain, and defend itself," Bush said in his statement. "Many difficult choices and further sacrifices lie ahead."
Experts say that the `Eid execution has won Saddam's sympathy from Arabs and Muslims worldwide whether they support him or not.
"Saddam was being dragged away like he was the sheep waiting to be slaughtered," Emad Gad, researcher with the Cairo-based Ahram Centre for Strategic Studies, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) Sunday, December31 .
"The main issue here is that the execution took place on the morning of the `Eid Al-Adha. This will stir anger and humiliation in people, whether they supported him or not."
Gad said the hanging images would further alienate Muslims and Arabs against the United States.
"Generally in the region, people's emotions are already anti-US, and these images will add to that feeling," he warned.
The executive editor of the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya news channel, Nabil Khatib, agreed.
"The pictures will re-create the anger and frustration among a large part of the Arab masses," Khatib told AFP.
"Once more, ordinary Arabs felt that there is a conspiracy against their symbols."
Prominent Jordanian criminal lawyer Sameeh Khreis criticized the swift appeal process and execution and said the hanging's timing disrespected Arabs and Muslims.
The execution "was very, very fast, and in my mind to execute him today on the first day of our Eid, the American policy decided to challenge us and our feelings as an Arab people and Muslim people," he told The Associated Press.
Saddam Hussein's execution drew outcries from human rights activists who condemned the hanging as too hasty and said they feared the trial may taint the future of Iraq's justice system.