Iraqi tribunal sentences Saddam to hang
Iraqi tribunal sentences Saddam to hang
By HAMZA HENDAWI, Associated Press Writer 23 minutes
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Saddam Hussein was convicted and
sentenced Sunday to hang for crimes against humanity
in the 1982 killings of 148 people in a single Shiite
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 by
the Iraqi High Tribunal, 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 had called on Iraqis
to reject sectarian violence and refrain from revenge
against U.S. forces.
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
"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
Iraq's history," Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq's Shiite prime
Some feared the verdicts 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
In north Baghdad's heavily Sunni Azamiyah district,
clashes broke out between police and gunmen. 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 organizing 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.
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.
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 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."
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
Three defendants were sentenced to 15 years in prison
for torture and premeditated murder. Abdullah Kazim
Ruwayyid and his son Mizhar Abdullah Ruwayyid were
party officials Dujail, along with Ali Dayih Ali. They
were believed responsible for the Dujail arrests.
Mohammed Azawi Ali, a former Dujail Baath Party
official, was acquitted for lack of evidence and
He 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, who were persecuted under the former leader
but now largely control the government, will likely
view the outcome as a cause of celebration.
Al-Dulaimi, Saddam's lawyer, told AP his client called
on Iraqis to reject sectarian violence and called on
them to refrain from taking revenge on U.S. invaders.
"His message to the Iraqi people was 'pardon and do
not take revenge on the invading nations and their
people'," al-Dulaimi said, quoting Saddam. "The
president also asked his countrymen to 'unify in the
face of sectarian strife.'"
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
"By our souls, by our blood we sacrifice for you
Saddam" and "Saddam your name shakes America."
U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad issued a statement
saying the verdicts "demonstrate the commitment of the
Iraqi people to hold them (Saddam and his
"Although the Iraqis may face difficult days in the
coming weeks, closing the book on Saddam and his
regime is an opportunity to unite and build a better
future," Khalilzad said.
Two U.S. officials who worked as advisers to the court
on matters of international judicial procedures said
Saddam's repeated courtroom outbursts during the
nine-month trial may have played a key part in his
They cited his admission in a March 1 hearing that he
had ordered the trial of 148 Shiites who were
eventually executed, insisting that doing so was legal
because they were suspected in the assassination
attempt against him. "Where is the crime? Where is the
crime?" he asked, standing before the panel of five
Later in the same session, he argued that his
co-defendants must be released and that because he was
in charge, he alone must be tried. His outburst came a
day after the prosecution presented a presidential
decree with a signature they said was Saddam's
approval for death sentences for the 148 Shiites,
their most direct evidence against him.
About 50 of those sentenced by the "Revolutionary
Court" died during interrogation before they could go
to the gallows. Some of those hanged were children.
"Every time they (defendants) rose and spoke, they
provided a lot of incriminating evidence," said one of
the U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of
anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.
Under Saddam, Iraq's bureaucracy showed a consistent
tendency to document orders, policies and minutes of
meetings. That, according to the U.S. officials,
helped the prosecution produce more than 30 documents
that clearly established the chain of command under
One document gave the names of everyone from Dujail
banished to a desert detention camp in southern Iraq.
Another, prepared by an aide to Saddam, gave the
president a detailed account of the punitive measures
against the people of Dujail following the failed
Saddam's trial had from the outset appeared to reflect
the turmoil and violence in Iraq since the 2003
One of Saddam's lawyers was assassinated the day after
the trial's opening session last year. Two more were
later assassinated and a fourth fled the country.
In January, chief judge Rizgar Amin, a Kurd, resigned
after complaints by Shiite politicians that he had
failed to keep control of court proceedings. He, in
turn, complained of political interference in the
trial. Abdul-Rahman, another Kurd, replaced Amin.
Hearings were frequently disrupted by outbursts from
Saddam and Ibrahim, with the two raging against what
they said was the illegitimacy of the court, their ill
treatment in the U.S.-run facility where they are
being held and the lack of protection for their
The defense lawyers contributed to the chaos in the
courtroom by staging several boycotts.