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Death-Sentence Verdict For Hussein Is Largely Welcomed

An angry Hussein in court during his first trial (file photo) (epa) PRAGUE, November 6, 2006 -- U.S. President George W. Bush -- who ordered U.S. troops into Iraq 3 1/2 years ago -- called the sentencing of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein a “milestone.”

Speaking on November 5, Bush said the judgment is a “milestone in the Iraqi people’s effort to replace the rule of a tyrant with the rule of law.”

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki praised the court decision as a verdict on the whole Hussein era.

A photo presentation of the verdicts in the Saddam Hussein trial.

"The sentence on the head of the former regime is not a sentence on a person but on a dark era, unprecedented in the history of Iraq," al-Maliki said. "In full transparency and fairness, the judiciary has conducted a penal process with a ruler who has committed the worst crimes against the people."

Hussein and two top aides were sentenced to death on November 5 for ordering the killing of 143 Shi’a after a failed 1982 assassination attempt against him in the village of Al-Dujayl.

Australia and Britain, which joined the United States in toppling Hussein in 2003, also praised the decision.

"It's an enormous milestone on a very hard road to democracy for Iraq," Australian Prime Minister John Howard told reporters in Canberra today. "There's something quite heroic, in my view, about a country suffering all of the bloodshed and turmoil and travails that Iraq is suffering, yet still perseveres to give this mass murderer a fair trial. And the lengths that they went to provide transparency demonstrates to me that the people of Iraq really want to embrace democracy."

EU Opposes The Death Penalty

But many EU states are expressing reservations about the death sentence, which is to be carried out by hanging.

Finland, which holds the rotating EU Presidency, demanded on moral grounds that there be no execution.

“The EU opposes capital punishment in all cases and under all circumstances, and it should not be carried out in this case either," said a statement from the Finnish presidency.

Human rights groups have joined the call on Iraq not to use capital punishment and have questioned the fairness of the trial.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch say the process was marked by flaws and that the defense team was hampered by the killing of three of its lawyers.

What Comes Next?

UN human rights chief Louise Arbour has called for the defendant’s rights to a fair appeal to be “fully respected.”

Lawyers for Hussein and his convicted top aides are expected to file appeals immediately. It is uncertain how long the automatic appeals process could delay the executions.

It also remains uncertain whether Hussein would be executed while he remains on trial over the mass killings of Iraqi Kurds in northern Iraq in 1988.

And it is also unclear whether Hussein will still be brought to trial on other charges against him, including the invasion of Kuwait in 1990 that sparked the Gulf War.

Hussein shouted at the judge as the court sentenced him, refusing to recognize its legitimacy:

“Long live the people," Hussein said. "Long live the nation. Down with the agents. Down with the invaders. God is greatest, God is greatest, God is greatest, God is greatest, God is greatest, God is greatest.”

Hussein has previously said he prefers to be shot by a firing squad as a “military man” and that hanging is for an “ordinary criminal.”

Iraq Still Divided

In Iraq, popular reaction to the sentencing has been mixed. The decision is being celebrated in Kurdish and Shi’ite areas, but protested in some Sunni-Arab areas.

Reuters reports two people were killed and six wounded as police fired upon pro-Hussein demonstrators in the restive central city of Al-Ba'qubah on November 5.

Elsewhere in the region, opinions are also varied.

Papers in Iran announced the sentence today with celebratory headlines such as "The Noose For The Dictator" and "A Joyous Iraq."

But Jordan's "Al-Arab Al-Yawm" newspaper wrote that the verdict could complicate efforts to end sectarian violence in Iraq.

The Tragedy At Al-Dujayl

The Tragedy At Al-Dujayl

A protester in Baghdad carries a picture of a relative killed at Al-Dujayl (AFP file photo)


Former Iraqi dictator SADDAM HUSSEIN and seven of his associates went on trial on October 19, 2005, on charges of crimes against humanity for the regime's role in the deaths of 148 residents from the town of Al-Dujayl, and the imprisonment of 1,500 others following a botched assassination attempt against Hussein there on July 8, 1982. Following the arrests and deportations, the regime leveled the town... (more)

See also:

Al-Dujayl Native Tells Her Story

Al-Dujayl Survivor Says 'We Want The Deserved Punishment For The Guilty