Iraq appeals court upholds death sentence for Saddam

Iraq’s highest appeals court upheld the death sentence for Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s national security adviser said today.

Iraq’s highest appeals court upheld the death sentence for Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s national security adviser said today.

“The appeals court approved the verdict to hang Saddam,” the official, Mouwafak al-Rubaie, said.

On November 5, an Iraqi court sentenced Saddam to the gallows for the 1982 killing of 148 people in a single Shiite town after an attempt on his life there.

The decision of the appeals court 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 has been legally accepted.

Once those steps have been taken, Saddam and the others would be hanged within 30 days.

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

“We’ll implement the verdict by the power of the law,” Juhi said without elaborating.

An official on the High Tribunal court said 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 Dujail residents.

The official said the appeals court had concluded that the sentence of life imprisonment for former vice president Taha Yassin Ramadan was too lenient, and it returned his file to the High Tribunal. Ramadan had been convicted of premeditated murder in the Dujail case.

The High Tribunal official said the appeals court demanded the death penalty for Ramadan in a letter to the High Tribunal.

The official said the High Tribunal had received a copy of the appeals court’s decision upholding the death sentence for Saddam.

Saddam said those who were killed had been found guilty in a legitimate Iraqi court for trying to assassinate him in 1982.

Televised, the trial was watched throughout Iraq and the Middle East as much for theatre as for substance. Saddam was ejected from the courtroom repeatedly for his political harangues, and his half-brother and co-defendant, Ibrahim, once showed up in long underwear and sat with his back to the judges.

The nine-month trial had inflamed the nation, and three defence lawyers and a witness were murdered in the course of its 39 sessions.

Saddam was found hiding with an unfired pistol in a hole in the ground near his home village north of Baghdad in December 2003, eight months after he fled the capital ahead of advancing American troops.

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