Saddam faces execution within 30 days

IRAQ’S highest appeals court yesterday upheld the death sentence on Saddam Hussein.

The sentence “must be implemented within 30 days” from today, said chief judge Aref Shahin, who added that “any day could be the day of implementation.”

On November 5, an Iraqi court sentenced Saddam to the gallows for the 1982 killings of 148 people from a Shi’ite muslim town after an attempt on his life there.

The appeals court decision must be ratified by President Jalal Talabani and Iraq’s two vice-presidents. Talabani opposes the death penalty but has in the past deputised a vice-president to sign an execution order on his behalf — a substitute that was legally accepted.

Raed Juhi, a spokesman for the High Tribunal court that convicted Saddam, said the Iraqi judicial system would ensure that Saddam was executed even if Talabani and the two vice presidents did not ratify it.

The appeals court also upheld death sentences for Barzan Ibrahim, Saddam’s half brother and intelligence chief during the Dujail killings, and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, head of Iraq’s Revolutionary Court, which issued the death sentences against the residents.

The appeals court concluded the sentence of life imprisonment given to former vice-president Taha Yassin Ramadan was too lenient and returned his file to the High Tribunal.

Ramadan was convicted of premeditated murder in the Dujail case.

“The sentence has to be reviewed,” judge Shahin said. “We demand that he is sentenced to death.”

At his trial, Saddam argued that the Dujail residents who were killed had been found guilty in a legitimate Iraqi court for trying to assassinate him in 1982.

The trial inflamed Iraq’s political divide, and three defence lawyers and a witness were murdered during the course of its 39 sessions.

Saddam is in the midst of a second trial charging him with genocide and other crimes during a 1987-88 military crackdown on Kurds in northern Iraq. An estimated 180,000 Kurds died during the operation.

Meanwhile, Britain is to explain why it demolished a notorious Iraqi police station in an attempt to avert elements of the local council ending cooperation with British forces, it emerged.

The Foreign Office said there would be discussions over Monday’s raid after the head of the city’s council reportedly condemned it as illegal and provocative.

Officials said there had been no formal announcement of a halt to cooperation in the southern city despite threats of one — and suggested the move had been popular with local people.

More than 1,000 troops, accompanied by Iraqis, swooped on the Jameat station amid rumours that dozens of prisoners were about to be executed.

The operation was part of a drive to stamp out renegade Shi’ite militia elements believed to have infiltrated police operating from the compound.

There had been fears of repercussions against captives after seven high-ranking members of the Serious Crime Unit were arrested by British forces on suspicion of corruption and leading a death squad last week.

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