Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Saddam Hussein son's body double 'in 11-year legal limbo' over Irish citizenship

Saddam Hussein

An Iraqi exile who claims he was forced to become the body double of dictator Saddam Hussein's playboy son Uday says he is "in a legal limbo" as his fight to become an Irish citizen enters its 11th year.

Despite being married to an Irish woman, and having an Irish child, Latif Yahia's application for citizenship has been rejected twice.

The former army captain, who has been waiting for more than five years for a decision on his third citizenship application, was involved in a movie about his experience as a "fidi" or body double, which were widely used by Saddam's regime.

The 2011 movie, 'The Devil's Double', starred British actor Dominic Cooper, who won critical acclaim for his portrayal of both Mr Yahia and Uday, Saddam's sadistic eldest son.

Mr Yahia said that he finds it "hurtful and humiliating" that he has not yet received a decision from Justice Minister Alan Shatter, who has been credited with reducing waiting times for decisions in citizenship applications.

He says he has not been given a proper reason for the refusal of his citizenship, but believes he has been refused because of an alleged claim, passed from the CIA to Special Branch, that he is an international arms dealer -- a claim he dismisses.

"Not knowing why is like a thorn in my brain," said Mr Yahia, who says that he cannot accept citizenship in another country until he knows why he has been refused the privilege here.

Mr Yahia, an outspoken blogger, also believes he is being blocked by the authorities after criticising former Justice Minister Michael McDowell.

"I am not looking for sympathy, just a decision," said Mr Yahia, speaking from Belgium, where he is finalising a documentary, 'I Was Saddam's Son', which is due to be shown at the LA and Cannes film festivals.

"Even if he (the minister) refuses me, I will be thankful -- at least it would be an answer," said Mr Yahia.

Mr Yahia said that his life had been made difficult "in many ways" because he had no Irish citizenship and was unable to travel to America, Canada, Australia or New Zealand to promote his movie.

The minister's department does not comment on individual cases.

Mr Shatter, who has absolute discretion whether to grant a certificate of naturalisation, is currently reviewing Ireland's citizenship regime after a Syrian lawyer won a Supreme Court appeal last December over a decision to refuse him Irish citizenship.

Mr Yahia said that he had lost faith in Western justice.

"If I had known then what I know about the West I would have stayed in Baghdad and taken a bullet from Uday Hussein," he said.

"At least I would have been buried in my country beside my family. If I die tomorrow here in Ireland, I will still be a foreigner buried on foreign soil."

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