- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 20, 2006

BAGHDAD — The prosecution demanded the death penalty for former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in its closing arguments yesterday, saying he had shown “no mercy” in the killings of women and children during a crackdown on Shi’ite Muslims in the 1980s.

After a three-week recess, the defense gets to sum up its case, then a panel of judges will begin weighing the fate of the ousted leader and his seven co-defendants.

A U.S. official close to the court said the judges could take about 60 days in their deliberation, meaning verdicts likely would be announced in late September or early October. The official spoke on the condition on anonymity because he was not authorized to speak for the court.

If Saddam is convicted and sentenced to death by hanging, it could be months before the sentence is carried out. The defendants have the right to appeal, and Saddam faces a second trial for a military campaign against Iraqi Kurds in the 1980s that killed about 100,000 people.

No date for that trial has been set, and Iraqi officials have not said what will happen if the appeals from the first case run out while the second is going on.

The courtroom largely was silent throughout the three-hour session yesterday as chief prosecutor Jaafar al-Moussawi delivered his final arguments concerning the 1980s crackdown on the Shi’ite town of Dujail. Saddam, dressed in a black suit, sat calmly alongside his fellow defendants and occasionally took notes.

Mr. al-Moussawi reviewed the evidence against each man, then concluded by asking for the death penalty against Saddam, his half-brother Barzan Ibrahim, who was the head of the Mukhabarat intelligence agency at the time, and Taha Yassin Ramadan, a former senior regime member.

“The prosecution asks for the harshest penalty against them, because they spread corruption on earth. They showed no mercy even for the old, for women or for children; and even the trees were not safe from their oppression,” he said. “The law calls for the death penalty, and this is what we ask be implemented.”

“Well done,” Saddam muttered sarcastically.

Mr. al-Moussawi also sought a death sentence for Awad Hamed al-Bandar, former head of Saddam’s Revolutionary Court, which sentenced 148 Shi’ites to death. The prosecutor said Mr. al-Bandar’s actions “supported the crimes” committed by the others and asked that he be sentenced under articles of the Iraqi criminal code for premeditated murder, which calls for the death penalty.

The prosecutor asked for lenient sentences for three defendants — Abdullah Kazim Ruwayyid; his son, Mizhar Abdullah Ruwayyid; and Ali Dayim Ali — saying they committed their “acts to carry out orders issued by their superiors.”

He urged the release of the final defendant, Mohammed Azawi Ali, saying the evidence against him was not sufficient.

Many of Iraq’s Shi’ite majority and Kurdish minority are eager to see Saddam and his cohorts executed in revenge for the oppression of their communities by his Sunni-dominated regime.

But the perceived fairness of the trial will be a key question. Many Sunni Arabs see the court as a case of “victors’ justice” carried out by the Shi’ites and Kurds, who have dominated Iraq’s government since Saddam’s fall in 2003.

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