Saddam Ordered to Hang for Deaths in Iraqi Village

Saddam yells at the court as he receives his sentence. i

Saddam yells at the court as he receives his sentence. Scott Nelson/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Scott Nelson/AFP/Getty Images
Saddam yells at the court as he receives his sentence.

Saddam yells at the court as he receives his sentence.

Scott Nelson/AFP/Getty Images

Related NPR Stories

Hear coverage from 'Weekend Edition Sunday'

An Iraqi man celebrates the guilty verdict in Najaf. i

An Iraqi man in Najaf carries a picture of the leader of the Supreme council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq party, Shiite cleric Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, as he celebrates the guilty verdict. Saad Serhan/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Saad Serhan/Getty Images
An Iraqi man celebrates the guilty verdict in Najaf.

An Iraqi man in Najaf carries a picture of the leader of the Supreme council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq party, Shiite cleric Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, as he celebrates the guilty verdict.

Saad Serhan/Getty Images
Former Baath party official Abdullah Kadhem Ruweid reacts after being sentenced to 15 years. i

Former Baath party official Abdullah Kadhem Ruweid reacts after being sentenced to 15 years in prison. Scott Nelson/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Scott Nelson/AFP/Getty Images
Former Baath party official Abdullah Kadhem Ruweid reacts after being sentenced to 15 years.

Former Baath party official Abdullah Kadhem Ruweid reacts after being sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Scott Nelson/AFP/Getty Images
A boy in Tikrit carries a portrait of Saddam. i

An Iraqi boy in ousted dictator Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit carries a portrait of the former leader with the words, "Saddam Hussein, son of Tikrit, you hero, we love you." Dia Hamid/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Dia Hamid/AFP/Getty Images
A boy in Tikrit carries a portrait of Saddam.

An Iraqi boy in ousted dictator Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit carries a portrait of the former leader with the words, "Saddam Hussein, son of Tikrit, you hero, we love you."

Dia Hamid/AFP/Getty Images

Saddam Hussein and two co-defendants were sentenced Sunday to death by hanging for their role in the deaths of 148 villagers from the town of Dujail, where torture and executions followed a failed assassination attempt on Saddam in 1982.

Saddam's half-brother Barzan al-Tikriti (Saddam's former Intelligence chief) and the former Chief Judge of the Baathist Revolutionary Court, Awad al-Bandar were also condemned.

Taha Yassin Ramadan, the former vice-president of Iraq was sentenced to life in prison. Three other Baath officials were sentenced to fifteen years in prison, and another official was acquited of all charges

All eight were tried on charges stemming from a massacre of Shiites from the town of Dujail. When Saddam visited there in 1982 gunmen attempted to assassinate him. In response thousands of men, women, and children were sent to detention camps, huge swathes of farms and groves were destroyed, and 148 men and boys were sentenced to death by Bandar's Revolutionary Court. 46 of those sentenced were tortured to death before they ever reached a courtroom. Some of those sentenced were as young as 11, they were held until they turned 18 and then killed.

Reaction to the verdict and sentencing broke down almost completely along sectarian lines. In Baghdad, mass demonstrations took place in Shiite neighborhoods, with people firing guns into the air and waving banners. But in Sunni areas, pro-Saddam demonstrators took to the streets. All of this despite a curfew banning all vehicular and pedestrian traffic.

Elsewhere in the country the pattern repeated itself. In the mainly Shiite southern port city of Basra, and the Shiite holy city of Najaf, demonstrators took to the streets in celebration. But in Saddam's hometown of Tikrit and other Sunni cities, including the insurgent stronghold of Ramadi, angry demonstrators denounced the sentence.

Politicians were also divided by sect. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a member of the Dawa party that has now claimed to be behind the assassination attempt in Dujail, said, "Here is the day where the dictator, after being captured in his miserable hole, and trying him, and facing the penalty he deserves." Saddam was only getting what he deserved. But a Sunni parliamentarian, Salih al-Mutlaq, predicted the deaths of thousands or tens of thousands because of the decision.

The sentences of Saddam and those of his co-defendants receiving death or life-in-prison will automatically be appealed. A new panel of nine judges will review the verdict, but there is no time limit on their deliberations. However, once they do issue a ruling, the sentences must be carried out within 30 days.

Saddam is currently on trial for the deaths of tens of thousands of Kurds during the so-called Anfal campaign during the late 1980's. And there are at least ten other cases pending. But Saddam may not live to testify in those cases.

The judge spoke chillingly to Saddam today, who had to be forced to stand to hear the verdict. He told him that he would be hanged by the neck until dead. Saddam had asked for a firing squad, seeing it as a more honorable end, but that is only given in military executions.

However, the death sentence against the former Iraqi leader was hailed as a watershed by the Bush administration, which has painted the trial of Saddam as an important step in Iraq's path toward democracy.

"The judiciary is operating independently and we need to give them credit for doing their job and doing it in the way they saw fit and proper," presidential spokesman Tony Snow said, in response to skepticism about the timing of the sentence — two days before critical U.S. midterm elections.

"The Iraqi judges are the ones who spent all the time poring over the evidence," Snow said. "It's important to give them credit for running their own government."

In Baghdad, a "shaken" Saddam had to be ordered to stand to hear the sentence, reports NPR's Jamie Tarabay. He then tried to interrupt the presiding judge.

"The court decides to sentence Saddam Hussein to death by hanging for committing willful killing as a crime against humanity," the judge intoned.

Saddam shouted: "Long live the people, long live the nation, down with the occupiers, God is great, god is great."

A statement from President Bush is anticipated this afternoon from his ranch in Crawford, Texas. Mr. Bush has campaign stops scheduled today in Nebraska and Kansas.

Witness Fact Sheet for the Dujail Trial

The Iraqi High Tribunal's Dujail trial began proceedings on Oct. 19, 2005 and took final statements on July 27, 2006. Prior to adjourning to consider the verdict, the Iraqi High Tribunal held 40 trial sessions. The court record contains a total of 130 witness testimonies. A breakdown of the numbers:

Complainant Testimony:

17 complainant witnesses testified in court between October 19, 2005 and February 1, 2006.

24 Statements from complainant witnesses who were unable to attend the trial were read into the record between February 13 and March 1, 2006

Witness Testimony:

Waddah al-Sheikh's video testimony was heard in court on November 28, 2005

10 witnesses were heard in court between Feb. 1 and Feb. 14, 2006

Expert Testimony:

8 handwriting experts testimony was read into the record between April 17 and April 24, 2006

Defense Witnesses:

70 testimonials taken by 56 witness between May 16 and June 13, 2006. The breakdown of witnesses by defendant:

1. Mohammad Azzawi - 6 witnesses testified

2. Abdullah Kadhem Ruweed - 9 witnesses testified

3. Mizhir Kadhem Ruweed - 7 witnesses testified

4. Ali Diyah Ali - 7 witnesses testified

5. Awad al Bandar - 5 witnesses testified

6. Taha Yaseen Ramadan - 3 witnesses testified

7. Barzan al-Tikriti - 11 witnesses testified

8. Saddam Hussein - 22 witnesses testified

Source: U.S. Embassy to Iraq

U.S. Political Reaction

Quotes from U.S. lawmakers and officials about Sunday's verdict in the trial of ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein:

"Today is a historic day for the Iraqi people — a court of law under due process has found Saddam Hussein guilty for his crimes against the Iraqi people. Hussein has come a long way from torturing and killing his own people to hiding in a hole in the ground to experiencing the very rights he denied his fellow citizens." - House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.

 

"On this day of justice for the Iraqi people, President Bush must explain to the American people how he intends to change

course, so that our troops will finally have a strategy to complete the mission, Iraqis will finally have a plan to restore order to their country, and the mission can finally be accomplished." - Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada

 

"It's commendable and important that he was brought to justice in the country where he committed these atrocities against

humanity. ... Our troops should be commended for providing the security needed to conduct this trial in Iraq and for their ongoing efforts to put an end to the violence and protect the Iraqi people." - Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee

 

"This verdict is a reminder, if anyone needed one, of the innocent Iraqis that were murdered and buried in mass graves under

Hussein's maniacal regime. It is a reminder of the distinction between the summary executions of Hussein's political prisoners, and the full and fair trial given to their executioners. And it is a reminder of the stark difference between genocide and justice." - Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, the No. 2 Republican leader in the Senate

 

"An Iraqi court has rightly handed down this verdict, and it is just. But this development must not distract Americans from the more pressing issue: the need for a change in the direction of our country's policy toward Iraq, both the conduct of the war effort and our pathetic, corruption-stained attempt at reconstruction." - California Rep. Tom Lantos, top Democrat on the House International Relations Committee

— Associated Press

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.