Hussein Sentenced To Death By Hanging
Monday, November 6, 2006
BAGHDAD, Nov. 5 -- A divided and violence-ridden Iraq broke into starkly disparate displays of emotion on Sunday after judges in Baghdad condemned former president Saddam Hussein to hang for crimes against humanity.
In the south, a Shiite Muslim father held aloft the tiny, shrouded remains of a young son killed long ago during Hussein's armed campaign against the majority sect. The father danced with his son's bones in the street among celebrating crowds, elated at the news.
In the north, a Sunni Arab man in Hussein's home city strapped an explosives belt around his waist and vowed to avenge the death penalty handed to the former dictator.
"Today's sentences were a death sentence on righteousness, and this makes it obligatory to take the revenge for Iraq," said the man, 29-year-old shopkeeper Ibrahim Yahya, joining other Sunnis in jabbing rifle muzzles and pistols in the air in angry protest.
Elsewhere, Kurds pounded giant drums in traditional celebration. Shiite boys and men threw candy and fired into the air. Bitter-faced Sunni men clasped Hussein's portrait in one hand, a weapon in the other. The varied reactions demonstrated how long-standing divisions have widened in Iraq since Hussein's fall and threatened to divide and bloody the country further.
In Baghdad's Green Zone, a five-judge Iraqi panel announced a unanimous sentence of death for Hussein and two of his seven co-defendants, including Hussein's half brother. Four other defendants were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 15 years to life, and an eighth was acquitted.
The sentences of death and life imprisonment will be automatically appealed, with no time limit set for the appellate judges' decision.
If Hussein is executed, it would cut short his prosecution for campaigns in the 1980s and '90s in which his government allegedly killed tens of thousands -- or more -- of Shiites and minority Kurds. The charges on which he was convicted Sunday arose from an incident of lesser magnitude: the retaliatory executions of 148 Shiite men and boys from the town of Dujail in the 1980s.
The United States largely funded Hussein's trial, and U.S. officials close to the trial said Sunday's outcome vindicated the policy of having courts in individual nations try cases involving war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Bush administration has been a leading opponent of international tribunals, fearing that U.S. soldiers could be tried before them for political reasons.
After a meandering, year-long trial, Sunday's sentencing was rapid-fire, brusque and volatile.
"Make him stand up," Chief Judge Raouf Rasheed Abdel-Rahman ordered after Hussein, wearing the same dark suit and open-collared shirt he had worn for most of the trial, took a seat when he entered the courtroom and refused to rise.
Six Iraqi guards hauled Hussein to his feet and held his arms behind his back as his fate was declared. The former leader broke into shouts as soon as Abdel-Rahman began reading. In the five minutes that followed, each man shouted increasingly louder to be heard over the other.