AMMAN, Jordan – Facing trial and possible execution for the massacre of his fellow Muslims, ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein (search) sought in a letter published Sunday to cast himself as a martyr, writing that his "soul and existence is to be sacrificed" for the Arab cause.
A Jordanian friend received the letter through the International Committee of the Red Cross (search), which verified its authenticity and said it had been censored by Saddam's American captors in Iraq.
"My soul and my existence is to be sacrificed for our precious Palestine and our beloved, patient and suffering Iraq," said the letter, published in two Jordanian newspapers and made available to The Associated Press.
The Jordanian Arab Baath Socialist Party (search), which made the letter public, said its recipient refused to be identified. It was believed to have been the first letter sent by Saddam to someone other than a family member since the ousted leader was captured in December 2003.
Iraqi authorities are preparing about a dozen cases against Saddam and his former lieutenants but have completed the preliminary investigation of only one — the 1982 massacre of Shiite townspeople in Dujail, north of Baghdad, after an assassination attempt against the Iraqi leader.
That case is expected to go to trial in the fall, although no date has been set. Government spokesman Laith Kubba said in a televised interview that the first trial might start within six weeks.
Saddam and his co-defendants could face the death penalty if convicted. Others indicted in the Dujail massacre are Barazan Ibrahim, intelligence chief at the time and Saddam's half brother; former Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan; and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, at the time a Baath party official in Dujail.
The letter's defiant tone, flowery Arabic and support for Palestine were similar to old speeches by Saddam.
Rana Sidani, a spokeswoman for the ICRC's Iraq delegation in Amman, said the Red Cross had confirmed the message's authenticity and the letter had been "censored by the detaining authorities before being handed over to the ICRC for distribution."
Sidani said Saddam and other such political detainees to whom the Red Cross has access are normally only allowed to write letters to family members and loved ones and in exceptional cases to friends. She said the Red Cross messages are not meant for publication.
Facing possible execution if found guilty in upcoming trials, Saddam's letter appeared to include musings on his mortality.
"Life is meaningless without the considerations of faith, love and inherited history in our nation," the letter said.
"It is not much for a man to support his nation with his soul and all he commands because it deserves it since it has given us life in the name of God and allowed us to inherit the best," he wrote in a what appeared a call to Arabs to follow in his footsteps.
The Jordanian Baath Party, which espouses ideology similar to Saddam's now-defunct Baath Party, has no links to Iraq.
Party Secretary General Tayseer Homsi said the letter's recipient was not a party member but an "independent Jordanian political figure who wished to remain anonymous." He handed the letter over two days ago, Homsi said. "He's an old friend of Saddam, he's not a member of our party nor is he a party functionary."
Saddam's two daughters, Raghad and Rana, have lived in Amman since fleeing the U.S. invasion two years ago.
In addressing his correspondent, Saddam said: "My brother, love your people, love Palestine, love your nation, long live Palestine."
The PLO supported Iraq during the first Gulf War after Saddam invaded Kuwait.
At the start of the Palestinian uprising against Israel, Saddam paid $15,000 to families of Palestinian suicide bombers, later raising it to $25,000.
The money was believed to have been channeled through the Arab Liberation Front, a Baath party department in the Palestinian areas. Saddam also issued checks of $10,000 to families of Palestinians killed in other than suicide operations.
During Saddam's rule, Palestinian students were exempted from university fees and the government built a housing complex in the Baladiyat neighborhood, about 10 miles east of Baghdad, where hundreds of them lived.
In other areas, the government rented apartments on behalf of the Palestinians paying little money to landlords who did not dare to object.