Tuesday, December 26, 2006

12:04 p.m.

BAGHDAD — Iraq’s highest appeals court today upheld the death sentence for Saddam Hussein in his first trial and said it must be carried out within 30 days.

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 the 1982 killings of 148 persons from Dujail, a Shi’ite Muslim town, after an attempt on his life there.

The appeals court decision must be ratified by President Jalal Talabani and Iraq’s two vice presidents. Mr. 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 that convicted Saddam, said the Iraqi judicial system would ensure that Saddam is executed even if Mr. Talabani and the two vice presidents do not ratify the decision.

“We’ll implement the verdict by the power of the law,” Mr. Juhi said without elaborating.

An official on the High Tribunal said 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 official said the appeals court concluded the sentence of life imprisonment given 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.

At his trial, Saddam argued that the Dujail residents who were killed had been found guilty in a legitimate Iraqi court of 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 repeatedly was ejected from the courtroom 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 attorneys and a witness were killed 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 ethnic Kurds in northern Iraq. An estimated 180,000 Kurds died during the operation.

The trial is in recess until Jan. 8.

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