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Verdict on Saddam likely on November 5

The US-backed court is due to announce a final date for verdicts on the ousted Iraqi leader for crimes against humanity.

india Updated: Oct 16, 2006 17:25 IST

A court trying Saddam Hussein for killing Shi'ites in the 1980s could deliver its verdict on November 5, officials said.

The US-backed court was due to announce on Monday a final date for verdicts on the ousted Iraqi leader and seven of his former top lieutenants for crimes against humanity, a charge which carries a maximum penalty of death by hanging.

However, the court said it needed more time to review testimony. Court spokesman Raed Juhi said the Iraqi High Tribunal would reconvene on November 5 although it was not clear if a verdict would be announced then.

"They are finishing reviewing testimony. If the court has finished reviewing testimony by November 5 there might be a verdict.

The court would do whatever it finds appropriate," Juhi said.

Prosecutors have asked for the death penalty to be imposed if Saddam is found guilty of the killing of 148 Shi'ites after an attempt on his life in the village of Dujail in 1982.

Saddam is also on trial separately on charges of genocide for a military operation against the country's ethnic Kurds in the late 1980s that killed tens of thousands.

Saddam, 69, has acknowledged in court that he ordered trials that led to the execution of dozens of Shi'ites after the assassination attempt, but says he acted within the law.

Iraqi law states an execution must be by hanging. Saddam has said he deserves to meet this fate by firing squad rather than the gallows.

Any execution could be delayed by lengthy appeals and by the up to a dozen other cases the toppled leader could face.

Saddam struck a typically defiant tone in an open letter dictated to his chief lawyer Khalil Dulaimi during a four-hour meeting on Saturday in his prison.

Saddam said Iraqis should put aside differences and set only one goal - to drive US troops out of Iraq.

"Victory is at hand but don't forget that your near-term goal is confined to liberating your country from the forces of occupation," Saddam said in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by the agency on Sunday.

Saddam says the Iraqi High Tribunal, set up by a US occupying administration after the 2003 invasion to oust him, is a sham.

He has said a guilty verdict has already been concocted by his political enemies now in power.

Prosecutors in the Dujail trial have also asked for the death penalty for Saddam's three co-accused, including Barzan al-Tikriti, Saddam's former intelligence chief and half-brother.

First Published: Oct 16, 2006 17:25 IST