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Saddam sentenced to hang

A SHAKEN but defiant Saddam Hussein was sentenced to hang on Sunday for crimes against humanity, sparking joy for Shias he oppressed and resentment among his fellow Sunnis across Iraq's violent sectarian divide.

india Updated: Nov 06, 2006 13:13 IST

A SHAKEN but defiant Saddam Hussein was sentenced to hang on Sunday for crimes against humanity, sparking joy for Shias he oppressed and resentment among his fellow Sunnis across Iraq's violent sectarian divide.

His half-brother Barzan al-Tikriti and former judge Awad al-Bander were also sentenced to death for killing, torturing and deporting hundreds of people from the Shia town of Dujail after Shia gunmen tried to kill Saddam there in 1982.

Former vice president Taha Yassin Ramadan received a life term. Three Baath party officials were jailed for 15 years and an eighth, minor defendant was acquitted for lack of evidence.

Saddam admitted ordering the execution of 148 men, justifying it as a wartime measure against Shia allies of his enemy Iran.

As mortar rounds crashed onto warring Baghdad neighborhoods and police reported sporadic clashes despite a curfew on the capital, Shia Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki called for unity after the ousted leader was handed "the punishment he deserves."

There was a noticeable silence from minority Sunni leaders. The United States, which set up the court after its invasion toppled Saddam in 2003, called it "a good day for the Iraqi people." Officials have dismissed suggestions the verdict was timed to aid US President George W. Bush's Republicans at elections on Tuesday that have been dominated by dismay at Iraq's turmoil.

Defence lawyers dismissed it as "victor's justice". Saddam initially refused to stand when brought in to hear the verdict from Kurdish chief judge Raouf Abdul Rahman, at the 45-minute hearing. When he did, visibly shaken, he yelled the defiant Arab battle cry "Allahu Akbar!" (God is Greatest) and "Long live Iraq" as the judgment was read.

"The court has decided to sentence Saddam Hussein al-Majid to be hanged until he is dead for crimes against humanity," Abdul Rahman said, ignoring Saddam's earlier bombastic plea that he should face a military firing squad, not the noose.
Bearded and tieless in a black suit, and clutching a Koran, Saddam called for "forgiveness" for "aggressors" and "traitors".

Saddam is being held by US troops and any execution, possibly next year, is likely to happen behind prison walls, like those of other criminals this year. Before then, he will continue to stand trial for genocide against the Kurds. He is due back in court on Tuesday.

Reuters