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Baghdad, Dec. 26 (Reuters): An Iraqi appeals court today upheld Saddam Hussein’s death sentence for crimes against humanity and said he should hang within 30 days.
Human rights activists condemned his trial as seriously flawed and called on the government not to carry out the sentence, which comes amid raging violence between Saddam’s fellow Sunnis and majority Shias.
Sunni leaders reacted angrily to the ruling, saying it was politically motivated by Saddam’s former enemies now in power in a US-backed Shia-led national unity government.
“The appeal court has approved the death sentence. They (the government) have the right to choose the date starting from tomorrow up to 30 days. After 30 days it will be an obligation to implement the sentence,” the head of the Iraqi High Tribunal, Aref Abdul-Razzaq al-Shahin, said.
Saddam, 69, and two others were sentenced to death on November 5 for crimes against humanity over the killings of 148 Shias from the town of Dujail after he escaped assassination in 1982.
“Every criminal should get what he deserves, whether he is Saddam or anybody else, but with a fair trial. They turned the Saddam trial into a show,” said Salim al-Jibouri, an official of the Islamic Party, the largest Sunni party in parliament.
Human rights group Amnesty International said the appeal court ruling came after a trial that lacked independence from political interference.
“Amnesty International is very disappointed about this decision,” a spokeswoman said. “We are against the death penalty as a matter of principle but particularly in this case because it comes after a flawed trial.”
The nine-judge appeal court also upheld death sentences against Saddam’s half-brother, Barzan al-Tikriti, and former judge Awad al-Bander, for their part in the incident.
The court recommended toughening the sentence on former Vice-President Taha Yassin Ramadan, who had been sentenced to life in prison over Dujail, saying he should also be executed.
In Washington, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the US-backed Iraqi judicial system “has followed its rules and processes and come up with its conclusion”. Saddam is still on trial with six others for genocide against ethnic Kurds in northern Iraq in the 1980s.
Saddam is scheduled to appear in court again on January 8.