The court in Baghdad trying Saddam Hussein has found the former Iraqi dictator guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced him to death. The verdict and sentencing was greeted by Saddam with cries of defiance and curses. The prosecution demanded the death penalty back in June for the killing in 1982 of over 140 civilians in Dujail, but it is feared the guilty verdict could lead to a wave of violence.
Some small demonstrations have begun in Baghdad, both for and against execution. One minor Baath party official was acquitted, three others were jailed for 15 years, and Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan received a life sentence. Joining Saddam on death row will be Aouad Ahmed al Bandar, and Saddam’s half-brother Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti. All were sentenced to die by hanging.
Saddam’s defence team has already said it will appeal against the verdict. What is not clear is now that Saddam has been found guilty in the first instance, if any of the other possibly 11 scheduled trials will be held. He could conceivably be executed before having to face justice for his other alleged crimes.
Already a crowd of about 2000 Sunni Muslims has gathered in Tikrit, near Saddam’s home village, to protest against the execution. However, in Najaf, Shi’ites have gathered to demand the sentence be carried out, calling loudly for a definitive end to the Saddam Hussein era in Iraq’s history, and Sunni domination.