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Death for Saddam, 2 aides
Verdict to go to 9-judge appeals panel

Baghdad, November 5
Saddam Hussein was convicted and sentenced today to hang for crimes against humanity in the 1982 killings of 148 persons in a single town, as the ousted leader, trembling and defiant, shouted “God is great!”

As he, his half brother and another senior official in his regime were convicted and sentenced to death, Saddam, 69, yelled out, “Long live the people and death to their enemies. Long live the glorious nation, and death to its enemies!” The trial brought Saddam and his co-defendants before their accusers in what was one of the most highly publicised and heavily reported trials of its kind since the Nuremberg tribunals for members of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime and its slaughter of six million Jews in the World War II Holocaust.

Nouri al-Maliki, the Shiite Prime Minister, declared the verdicts as history’s judgement on a whole era.

“The verdict placed on the heads of the former regime does not represent a verdict for any one person. It is a verdict on a whole dark era that was unmatched in Iraq’s history,” al-Maliki said after the session.

Some feared the verdicts could intensify Iraq’s sectarian violence after a trial that stretched over nine months in 39 sessions and ended nearly three months ago. Clashes immediately broke out today in north Baghdad’s Sunni Azamiyah district. Elsewhere in the capital, celebratory gunfire rang out.

“This government will be responsible for the consequences, with the deaths of hundreds, thousands or even hundreds of thousands, whose blood will be shed,” Salih al-Mutlaq, a Sunni political leader, told the al-Arabiya satellite television station.

Saddam and his seven co-defendants were on trial for a wave of revenge killings carried out in the city of Dujail following a 1982 assassination attempt on the former dictator. Al-Maliki’s Islamic Dawa party, then an underground opposition, has claimed responsibility for organising the attempt on Saddam’s life.

In the streets of Dujail, a Tigris river city of 84,000, people celebrated and burned pictures of their former tormentor as the verdict was read.

The death sentences automatically go to a nine-judge appeals panel, which has unlimited time to review the case. If the verdicts and sentences are upheld, the executions must be carried out within 30 days.

A court official told The Associated Press that the appeals process was likely to take three to four weeks once the formal paperwork was submitted.

During today’s hearing, Saddam initially refused the chief judge’s order to rise; two bailiffs pulled the ousted ruler to his feet and he remained standing through the sentencing, sometimes wagging his finger at the judge.

Before the session began, one of Saddam’s lawyers, former US Attorney-General Ramsey Clark, was ejected from the courtroom after handing the judge a memorandum in which he called the trial a travesty.

Chief Judge Raouf Abdul-Rahman pointed to Clark and said in English, “Get out.”

In addition to the former Iraqi dictator and Barzan Ibrahim, his former intelligence chief and half brother, the Iraqi High Tribunal convicted and sentenced Awad Hamed al-Bandar, the head of Iraq’s former Revolutionary Court, to death by hanging.

Iraq’s former Vice-President Taha Yassin Ramadan was convicted of premeditated murder and sentenced to life in prison.

Three defendants were sentenced to 15 years in prison for torture and premeditated murder. Abdullah Kazim Ruwayyid and his son Mizhar Abdullah Ruwayyid, along with Ali Dayih Ali, were believed responsible for the Dujail arrests.

Mohammed Azawi Ali, a former Dujail Baath Party official, was acquitted for lack of evidence and immediately freed.

He faces additional charges in a separate case over an alleged massacre of Kurdish civilians.

In Tikrit, Saddam’s hometown, 1,000 persons defied the curfew and carried pictures of the city’s favourite son through the streets. — AP

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