Hussein a gardener and poet in prison

LONDON – Saddam Hussein appears depressed and demoralized in solitary confinement, spending his time writing poetry, tending a garden and reading the Quran, according to a report published Monday in The Guardian newspaper.

One of Hussein’s poems is about George Bush, though the report did not specify whether that referred to President Bush or his father, Hussein’s foe in the 1991 Gulf War.

The newspaper quoted Bakhtiar Amin, the human rights minister in the new Iraqi government, who said he had visited Hussein’s cell on Saturday. Amin said he did not speak to the former Iraqi leader.

Hussein’s air-conditioned cell in a U.S. military prison is 10 feet wide and 13 feet long, Amin said. Hussein is not allowed to mix with other prisoners.

Amin had little to report on Hussein’s poetry. “One of the poems is about George Bush, but I had no time to read it,” Amin said.

Amin reported that Hussein was being treated for high blood pressure and a chronic prostate infection, and was gaining weight after losing 11 pounds during a time when he resisted all fatty foods.

Hussein and other detainees get an MRE (meal ready to eat) breakfast, and hot food twice a day, Amin said. Dessert might include oranges, apples, pears or plums, but Hussein also likes muffins and cookies, The Guardian quoted Amin as saying.

Hussein is not allowed access to newspapers, TV or radio, but has access to 145 books – mostly travel books and novels – donated by the Red Cross.

Amin said Hussein tends a garden during his daily three-hour exercise period.

“He is looking after a few bushes and shrubs and has even placed a circle of white stones around a small palm tree,” said Amin. “His apparent care for his surroundings is ironic when you think he was responsible for one of the biggest ecocides when he drained the southern marshes.”

Associated Press

Saddam Hussein spends most of his time gardening, reading and writing poetry, a human rights minister says.

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