BAGHDAD, Iraq — Iraq’s highest appeals court on Tuesday upheld Saddam Hussein’s death sentence and said he must be hanged within 30 days for the killing of 148 Shiites in the central city of Dujail.
The sentence “must be implemented within 30 days,” chief judge Aref Shahin said. “From tomorrow, any day could be the day of implementation.”
On Nov. 5, an Iraqi court sentenced Saddam to the gallows for ordering the 1982 killings following an attempt on his life.
Under Iraqi law, the appeals court decision must be ratified by President Jalal Talabani and Iraq’s two vice presidents. Talabani opposes the death penalty but has in the past deputized a vice president to sign an execution order on his behalf — a substitute that was legally accepted.
Raed Juhi, a spokesman for the High Tribunal court that convicted Saddam, said the judicial system would ensure that Saddam is executed even if Talabani and the two vice presidents do not ratify the decision.
“We’ll implement the verdict by the power of the law,” Juhi said. He did not elaborate.
The appeals court also upheld death sentences for Barzan Ibrahim, Saddam’s half brother and intelligence chief during the Dujail killings, and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, head of Iraq’s Revolutionary Court, which issued the death sentences against the Dujail residents.
The appeals court concluded the sentence of life imprisonment given to former vice president Taha Yassin Ramadan was too lenient and returned his file to the High Tribunal. Ramadan was convicted of premeditated murder in the Dujail case.
“We demand that he be sentenced to death,” said Shahin, the appeals judge.
Claims of assassination attempt
At his trial, Saddam argued that the Dujail residents who were killed had been found guilty in a legitimate Iraqi court for trying to assassinate him in 1982.
The televised trial was watched throughout Iraq and the Middle East as much for theater as for substance. Saddam was ejected from the courtroom repeatedly for political harangues, and his half brother, Ibrahim, once showed up in long underwear and sat with his back to the judges.
The nine-month trial inflamed Iraq’s political divide, however, and three defense lawyers and a witness were murdered during the course of its 39 sessions.
Saddam is in the midst of a second trial charging him with genocide and other crimes during a 1987-88 military crackdown on Kurds in northern Iraq. An estimated 180,000 Kurds died during the operation.
Saddam was found hiding with an unfired pistol in a hole in the ground near his home village north of Baghdad in December 2003, eight months after he fled the capital ahead of advancing American troops.
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