| Saddam Hussein at his trial in Baghdad on Monday. (AFP)
Baghdad, June 19 (Reuters): Prosecutors demanded the death penalty today for Saddam Hussein and three of his former aides for crimes against humanity following a 1982 crackdown on Shias in which hundreds were killed and tortured.
A smiling and relaxed Saddam, who has repeatedly dismissed the US-backed court as a farce and faces death by hanging if found guilty, told the chief prosecutor after he finished his closing arguments: “Well done.”
Prosecutors also requested the death penalty for Saddam’s half-brother Barzan al-Tikriti, former vice-president Taha Yassin Ramadan and the former chief judge of Saddam’s Revolutionary Court, Awad Hamed al-Bander.
Saddam, Barzan, Ramadan, Bander and four local Baath party officials face charges of crimes against humanity for their roles in the killings, torture and executions that followed an attempt on the Iraqi leader’s life in the village of Dujail.
“The prosecution demand that the court impose the heaviest penalties on those defendants who spread corruption on earth and where not even trees escape their oppression, so we demand the court impose the death penalty,” chief prosecutor Jaafar al-Moussawi told chief Judge Raouf Abdel Rahman.
Eight months into a tumultuous trial marred by the killings of two defence lawyers, the resignation of a judge and tirades from the defendants, prosecutors presented their final statements in a heavily-fortified Baghdad courtroom. Rahman later adjourned the trial until July 10, when the defence team should deliver its final remarks.
Once final statements are in, a five-judge panel is expected to adjourn to consider a verdict.
Any sentence of execution for the former Iraqi president could be delayed by appeals and possibly up to a dozen other trials for war crimes and genocide. Saddam has admitted he ordered trials that led to executions of Dujail villagers, but said it was his legal right to do so because he was the head of state at a time of war with neighbouring Iran.
In a 45-minute statement, Moussawi said Saddam personally ordered Barzan to launch the crackdown in Dujail.
Following the attempt on Saddam’s life by gunmen who opened fire on his motorcade during a presidential visit, planes bombed Dujail, killing nine people, he said.
Families were detained and tortured at a Baath headquarters in Baghdad where 36 died, and 399 women, children and old men were sent to a detention centre in the desert without trial. “The military operations that followed the attempt were a reprisal, and excessive force was used as a response to this simple incident,” he said.
He said the 148 villagers executed at Bander’s court on Saddam's orders “never attended the court room and some of them were killed during the investigation”.