Is Saddam's Son More Brutal Than His Dad?

ByABC News
February 13, 2003, 3:12 PM

Feb. 14 -- It was a father's dilemma: What to do with a wayward son? In Saddam Hussein's case, the problem was his son Odai, who has been accused of murders and rapes too numerous to count.

For Saddam, the answer was to put Odai in charge of Iraq's Olympic committee. In the 16 years since, Odai Hussein has more than lived up to his reputation for capricious cruelty.

One example: 20/20 uncovered evidence linking Odai with the torture and interrogation of some 20 American prisoners captured during the 1991 Gulf War, including former Navy Cmdr. Jeff Zaun, who was forced at gunpoint to appear on Iraqi television and forced to denounce his country.

In his first television interview, Zaun told 20/20 that he was routinely beaten and threatened with death before he made the tape.

"They brought me in and told me they were going to kill me," he said. "I'll remember for the rest of my life I'll remember the guy with the pistol in his hand."

According to Odai's former press secretary, Abass al-Janabi, the dictator's son was one of five people supervising the treatment of the American prisoners. If the pilots did not give information, the orders were to torture them, Janabi said. He said he did not know if any of the pilots revealed accurate information.

American investigators believe Odai is one of the few who could know the whereabouts of American pilot Scott Speicher, who remains missing after his plane crashed in northern Iraq.

"If you say that this is a sadistic regime ... then it is possible to understand that Saddam and Odai might keep an American pilot alive ... for the purpose of causing other people pain," said Peter Galbraith, a former U.S. diplomat who works with Indict, a London-based group that tracks alleged human rights abuses by Iraqi officials.

Olympic Horror

But Odai saved some of his harshest cruelty for his own countrymen.

"Odai Hussein as head of the Olympic committee has personally directed the torture of athletes who have not done well. He has participated himself in beatings, in amputations," Galbraith said.