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Former Iraqi Vice President Hanged

Taha Yassin Ramadan addressing the court in Baghdad in July 2006 (epa) March 20, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Former Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan was hanged early today in Baghdad. Ramadan is the fourth senior official of Saddam Hussein's former regime to be executed.

Iraqi judges sent Ramadan to the gallows for the killings of 148 Shi'a in 1982 in the town of Al-Dujayl.

There was much criticism over the manner in which former President Saddam Hussein and two of his codefendants in the Al-Dujayl trial, Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti and Ahmed Bandar, were executed.

Footage of Hussein being taunted then hanged was circulated on the Internet. The January 15 hanging of Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti was particularly gruesome, with his head ripping from his body.

Not this time, according to the Iraqi authorities. Bassem Ridha, a senior adviser to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, told journalists today "the execution was smooth with no violation."

Ramadan was held in U.S. custody until shortly before the execution, when he was handed over to Iraqi authorities. The sentence was reportedly carried out at a prison on a military base in northern Baghdad.

Immediately following his November 5, 2006, conviction, Ramadan was sentenced to life in prison, but the punishment was later changed to execution during the appeals process.

Many Iraqis, especially Shi'ite Muslims, say they approve of the execution.

One Baghdad man who identified himself as Sabah al-Ka'abi told Reuters he believed Ramadan had had a fair trial.

"This court is not only a court that is formed by the government," he said. "It is the court of the Iraqi people, too. We are so happy with this decisive decision."

Another man, Iraqi Kadhim Jabbar, told Reuters television the execution brought some comfort to many people:

"It is a great happiness for the Iraqi people," Jabbar said. "Taha Yassin Ramadan and others hurt people a lot. They destroyed us and those who survived are still suffering now."

Ramadan was captured in the northern city of Mosul in August 2003 by Iraqi Kurdish fighters and handed over to U.S. forces.

In 2002, a year before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Ramadan had proposed that Saddam Hussein and U.S. President George W. Bush should settle their differences in a duel with weapons of their choice.

Born into a peasant family in the late 1930s, Ramadan worked in a bank before joining the Ba'ath party in 1956 and participating in the 1968 coup that returned the Ba'athists to power.

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