Wednesday, December 7, 2005

SULAIMANIYAH, Iraq — The question on people’s minds in Iraq’s largest Kurdish city as they watch Saddam Hussein’s trial on television is not whether he should be executed, but how and when.

Some argue that the ousted leader should be convicted and put to death immediately after the trial, which is being broadcast live on Kurdish television.

Others want to see a series of trials, in which Saddam is held to account for a long-term campaign that displaced hundreds of thousands of Kurds, and for four poison-gas attacks that killed several thousand others.

“Don’t rush it; let it take years,” Hero Talabani, the wife of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, told foreign reporters. Mrs. Talabani is the founder of a satellite television station that has been covering the trial.

“Let it be an example to Middle East leaders what can happen to murderous dictators,” she said. “If Saddam dies soon, the full horror will not emerge and people will forget quickly.”



A small part of Saddam’s bloody legacy is on display in a nondescript annex to the former regime’s four-story General Security Service offices in the center of Sulaimaniyah. The one-time prison, shut down when the Kurds achieved a measure of independence under U.S. protection in 1991, now serves as a museum.

Among the visitors this week were two teenage boys who contemplated exhibits such as electrodes used in torture sessions and a macabre noose brought from the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad.

“Whatever Saddam did to the Iraqi people, let him get the same. In front of me. Then hang him,” said 14-year-old Hunar Ghareeb, who said his uncle and cousin were killed by the regime.

He and his friend Ali, also 14, stood in a cell reading the desperate messages that prisoners had scratched on the walls. One such etching said: “I’m 10 years old but they claim I’m 17. Mummy and Daddy, the Ba’athists are going to kill me and I’ll never see you again.”

A museum guide who identified himself only as Halkaw said that as many as 40 women had been held in a single cell, where they were raped repeatedly in front of other prisoners, including their husbands or brothers, to pressure them to “confess.”

“For Saddam, execution is too little, too little,” said another visitor to the torture cells, Ahmed Hassan, a 32-year-old geologist for a local oil company. “People will feel happy when he’s dead.”

Faroukh Sabir Ahmed, 38, a former political prisoner who now sells cooked brown beans on a sidewalk, had perhaps the most imaginative idea for Saddam’s punishment.

“My suggestion is they bring Saddam here in front of all the mothers whose children he’s killed, and let the mothers cut off sections of his flesh, bit by bit. They can kill him thousands of times.”

A few think Saddam should be left alive to see what Iraq is becoming without him.

“I’m against execution,” said Sherko Manguri, deputy editor of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan’s daily newspaper. “Let the dictator see his people experiencing freedom and democracy — free at last from his rule. Every day is for him a kind of living death.”

• Distributed by World News & Features

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