/ 6 May 2008

Saddam journal reveals prison Aids fear

Saddam Hussein, the ousted Iraqi dictator who was hanged in 2006 for crimes against humanity, feared he would pick up sexual diseases while he was United States custody, according to extracts from prison writings published in an Arabic newspaper.

Saddam said he asked his prison guards not to put their washing on the same line as his, fearing he could contract ”young people’s diseases”, the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper reported, citing his journal.

”My main concern was to avoid contracting a sexual disease in a place like this, and Aids,” he said.

”What can the Americans and other invaders … bring to an [invaded] country apart from dangerous diseases?” Saddam said according to Al-Hayat, without saying how it obtained the documents.

Some of the writings were published in the newspaper in the form of dated letters, or poems written by Saddam himself, the Middle East’s most notorious strongman of the late 20th century.

Saddam was hanged on December 30 2006, after an Iraqi court found him guilty of crimes against humanity for ordering the execution of 148 Shi’ites from the town of Dujail after an assassination attempt against him in 1982.

He was sent to the gallows at the age of 69, three years after being captured by US invading forces who found him, long-haired, bearded and bedraggled, in a hole near his hometown of Tikrit.

Pictures of Saddam published by a British tabloid in May 2005 showed the iron-fisted dictator in prison, bare-chested in only his underwear and washing his clothes by hand in a bucket.

In another extract published by Al-Hayat, Saddam wrote that he once joked with his doctor, saying he hoped he would be able to get married once again and have children.

”I joked with him saying … may Allah will enable me to get married and have children again, to name two of them Uday and Qusay, and the third Mustapha,” wrote Saddam, who was reportedly married four times.

Uday and Qusay, Saddam’s two sons, were killed by US troops in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul in July 2003.

According to an American nurse assigned to Saddam during his detention, he was an avid reader who loved to write during his time behind bars.

”He had a lot of stories that he had written. He had a pamphlet that he wrote in every day and then when time came to visit him he’d read things to me,” Robert Ellis said following Saddam’s hanging.

Saddam’s attorney claimed after his execution that the US military had confiscated the former Iraqi president’s books as well as notes and poems he wrote in jail to screen them before returning them.

In his writings, Saddam also warned of the threat posed by neighbouring Shi’ite Iran to Iraq and the Arab world, saying it was more dangerous than Israel.

”The spread of the Persians … is more dangerous for Iraq than the Zionist entity, now and in the future,” he said. ”The Persians are similarly dangerous to the Arab nation, especially the Arab countries of the Gulf.” – AFP