The Man Behind the Camera Still a Mystery

ByMarcus Baram

Jan. 3, 2007 — -- Who caught it on camera?

Ever since that now-infamous cell phone video of Saddam Hussein's execution exploded onto the Internet last weekend, everyone's been asking: Who took the video?

From the Beltway to Baghdad, top government officials have vowed to get to the bottom of the mystery amid allegations of cover-up and intrigue. And speculation about the identity of the cameraman -- and his motives -- ran rampant in the blogosphere and among Iraqi exile groups.

The leaked cell phone video sparked outrage because it showed guards taunting Hussein and shouting "Go to hell!" in his final minutes. Since the video's release, Sunni Muslims have protested in the streets, angered at the lack of respect shown to the deposed leader.

Today Iraqi officials arrested a person believed to have recorded the video, describing him as "an official who supervised the execution" who is now "under investigation."

But later, Sadiq al-Rikiabi, an adviser to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, told Reuters that a number of guards had been taken in for questioning and that one of them was suspected of being the camerman. Another report in the Times of London described the suspect as a guard, not an official. "Now we will try to find out whether he did this on purpose, whether anyone asked him to take the footage, or did he do this not recognizing the consequences," al-Rikiabi told the paper.

So who's the unnamed official -- or guard? In a New York Times story, an Iraqi prosecutor present at the execution said National security adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie was responsible for the controversial video, but the prosecutor and al-Rubaie quickly denied it.

"I am not accusing Mowaffak al-Rubaie, and I did not see him taking pictures," said Munqith al-Faroon, a prosecutor in the case that sent Saddam to the gallows, explaining that he had been misquoted.

"But I saw two of the government officials who were … present during the execution taking all the video of the execution, using the lights that were there for the official taping of the execution," al-Faroon told The Associated Press. "They used mobile phone cameras. I do not know their names, but I would remember their faces."

According to al-Faroon, all mobile phones had been confiscated from 14 Iraqi officials and the three hangmen present for the execution. But he believes that some of the officials' bodyguards had smuggled camera phones to two of the officials.

Al-Rubaie claimed that he was misquoted and denied he was the cameraman. "I had no camera and no mobile phone with me. I handed my mobile over to my assistant before getting on the American helicopter that took us to the scene," he told Reuters.

Rubaie also expressed outrage at the video and claimed the execution chamber had been infiltrated by Shiite militants."Whoever leaked this video meant to harm national reconciliation and drive a wedge between Shiites and Sunnis."

In the face of widespread outrage over the video, American officials said they had nothing to do with the execution procedures.

"We were not involved in any searches of any people. We had nobody present," said U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. William Caldwell. "We did not dictate any requirements that had to be followed. This was a government of Iraq decision on how that whole process went down."

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