Sunday, November 19, 2006

Saddam Hussein Sentenced to Death for Crimes Against Humanity

The iron-fisted dictator, who ruled Iraq for nearly a quarter of a century, was found guilty of crimes against humanity Sunday and sentenced to death by hanging.
The so-called Butcher of Baghdad, who was president of Iraq from 1979 until he was deposed by Coalition forces in April 2003, was convicted of the 1982 killings of 148 Shiites in the city of Dujail.
The visibly shaken former leader shouted "God is great!" as Iraq's High Tribunal announced his sentence.
addam's half brother and former intelligence chief Barzan Ibrahim, and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, head of the former Revolutionary Court, were sentenced to join Saddam on the gallows for the Dujail killings after an unsuccessful assassination attempt during a Saddam visit to the city 35 miles north of Baghdad.
The trial brought Saddam and his co-defendants before their accusers in what was one of the most highly publicized and heavily reported trials of its kind since the Nuremberg tribunals for members of Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime and its slaughter of 6 million Jews in the World War II Holocaust.
As the verdict was read, Saddam yelled out, "Long live the people and death to their enemies. Long live the glorious nation, and death to its enemies!" Later, his lawyer said the former dictator called on Iraqis to reject sectarian violence and refrain from revenge against U.S. forces.
"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 has was unmatched in Iraq's history," said Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq's Shiite prime minister.
Some feared the court decision could exacerbate the sectarian violence that has pushed the country to the brink of civil war, after a trial that stretched over nine months in 39 sessions and ended nearly 3 1/2 months ago. The verdict came two days before midterm elections in the United States widely seen as a referendum on the Bush administration's policy in Iraq. U.S. and Iraqi officials have denied the timing was deliberate.
In north Baghdad's heavily Sunni Azamiyah district, clashes broke out between police and gunmen. Elsewhere in the capital, celebratory gunfire rang out.
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 organizing the attempt on Saddam's life.
In the streets of Dujail, people celebrated and burned pictures of their former tormentor as the verdict was read.
Saddam's chief lawyer Khalil al-Dulaimi condemned the trial as a "farce," claiming the verdict was planned. He said defense attorneys would appeal within 30 days.
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.
During Sunday'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 U.S. 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."
Saddam faces additional charges in a separate case over an alleged massacre of Kurdish civilians -- a trial that will continue while appeals are pending.
The guilty verdict is likely to enrage hard-liners among Saddam's fellow Sunnis, who made up the bulk of the former ruling class. The country's majority Shiites were persecuted under the former leader but now largely control the government. Al-Dulaimi, Saddam's lawyer, told AP his client called on Iraqis to reject sectarian violence and refrain from taking revenge on U.S. invaders.
In Tikrit, Saddam's hometown, 1,000 people defied the curfew and carried pictures of the city's favorite son through the streets. Some declared the court a product of the U.S. "occupation forces" and condemned the verdict.
"By our souls, by our blood we sacrifice for you Saddam" and "Saddam your name shakes America."

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