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Highlights from the world's press

Compiled by Ravi Agrawal for CNN
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(CNN) -- With Saddam Hussen receiving a death sentence yesterday in an Iraqi court, papers around the world have commented on the outcome and its ramifications for Iraq.

The New York Times says while "Hussein's horrendous crimes deserve exemplary punishment" Iraq has not received the full justice it deserves.

"Mr. Hussein got a fairer trial than he ever would have allowed in his courts. But Iraq got neither the full justice nor the full fairness it deserved. President Bush overreached in calling the trial a milestone in the Iraqi people's efforts to replace the rule of a tyrant with the rule of law.

"From the beginning, the now dominant Shiite and Kurdish politicians have been determined to use Mr. Hussein's trial and punishment to further their own political ends, as Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has continued to do in recent days.

"Mr. Hussein, as expected, repeatedly tried to mock the proceedings. More seriously, powerful politicians regularly tried to influence the outcome, judges were not allowed to rule impartially, and defense lawyers were denied security measures and documents they needed."

In the UK, The Times says the trial "was emphatically not a show trial or a kangaroo court experience. Evidence was carefully assembled and, while the process had inevitable imperfections, Saddam and the other seven men in the dock had the opportunity to rebut what was placed in front of them. The sentences awarded carefully distinguished between the roles played by the defendants 24 years ago (and one of the accused was acquitted).

"The former strongman alternated between denying the legitimacy of the court and dismissing the relevance of the charges. It was a defiant stance but not one that should elicit any sympathy. This should be reserved for his victims."

The Jerusalem Post says "the conviction and sentencing of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein by a special tribunal in Baghdad should be regarded as a triumph for justice and a sign of hope for Iraq, the region and the world. Iraqis have good reason to celebrate, as they did yesterday across the country, despite the curfew imposed in anticipation of the decision."

India's Hindu says the verdict is a "travesty of justice." "[Hussein] certainly deserved to be punished if he did contrive the 1982 execution through a sham trial of 148 people in the town of Dujail. However, the verdict of a Baghdad trial court convicting him for crimes against humanity and sentencing him, his half-brother, and a former judge to death by hanging and four others to terms of imprisonment ranging from 15 years to life lacks even a fig-leaf of legitimacy.

"The conduct of the trial, falling far short of international legal standards, was a travesty of justice, as a widely admired human rights advocate, Ramsey Clark, former U.S. Attorney General and one of the defence lawyers, said in open court before being physically ejected ...

"The first chief judge resigned saying he had come under unbearable political pressure. A second judge was appointed but did not take up the assignment.

"The judge who eventually presided was aggressively biased. Severe restrictions were placed on Mr. Hussein's access to lawyers. Three defence lawyers were assassinated during the trial... Hussein's notorious contempt for the rule of law can hardly be trotted out by those who toppled him in the name of freedom, justice, and democracy as an excuse for the farcical trial."

Meanwhile a report in The International Herald Tribune says according to international legal experts there are doubts whether Hussein was allowed to present a full defence.

"Lawyers and human rights advocates broadly agreed that the Iraqi tribunal's proceedings frequently fell short of international standards for war crimes cases. But even critics of the trial said the five Iraqi judges who heard the case had made a reasonable effort to conduct a fair trial in the face of sustained pressure from Iraqi political leaders for a swift death sentence. American lawyers pointed to substantial evidence offered by the prosecution implicating Saddam in the crimes against humanity with which he had been charged."

U.S. elections

The U.S. congressional elections tomorrow are receiving widespread international coverage because of the far-reaching effects of US foreign policy.

The Washington Post says this could be an election where the fear of the status quo could be greater than the fear of change.

"How much change could depend on how voters -- particularly independents -- resolve these questions: How much has Iraq trumped the larger war against terror, which two years ago was the president's great link to swing voters? How effectively have Republicans used a tough-on-immigration and antitax posture to counter the erosion of support for the war? How unshakable is the economic pessimism in the Midwest? And what is the lasting impact of political scandals, topped by former Rep. Mark Foley's sexual approaches to former teenage pages?"

Russia's St. Peterburg Times says an important point for pollsters to consider is the historic strength of incumbents running for re-election in the United States.

"If Americans believe that these midterm elections represent a model of democracy for the rest of the world, they should think again. Despite an unpopular war and some indiscreet e-mails from a Republican congressman, the Democrats' hopes of winning a majority in either house face a very undemocratic obstacle: The overwhelming power of incumbency in the United States.

"During the past 50 years, more than 95 percent of congressmen who have stood for re-election have won. In 2004 only five incumbent congressmen were defeated; in 2002, the total was four."

Meanwhile, a report in The New York Times says President Bush has seized on the conviction of Hussein as a "milestone in Iraq" while seeking to rally Republican voters on the issue of national security.

"The White House said the timing of the announcement, two days before Election Day, had nothing to do with American politics and had been dictated by the Iraqi court. But Mr. Bush moved quickly to put it to use in what has been his central strategic imperative over the past week, trying to rouse Republican voters to turn out. 'Today we witnessed a landmark event in the history of Iraq: Saddam Hussein was convicted and sentenced to death by the Iraqi High Tribunal,' Mr. Bush said to roars of approval in a hockey auditorium packed with supporters in Grand Island, Neb. 'Saddam Hussein's trial is a milestone in the Iraqi people's efforts to replace the rule of a tyrant with the rule of law.'"

Stern warning

As the news of Nicholas Stern's report on the devastating effects of climate change slowly recedes from the opinion pages of the world's papers, The Economist has a timely warning: "Sir Nicholas may well err on the gloomy side. But governments should act not on the basis of the likeliest outcome from climate change but on the risk of something really catastrophic (such as the melting of Greenland's ice sheet, which would raise sea levels by six to seven meters). Just as people buy insurance on the off-chance that their house might burn down, and nations pay for standing armies just in case a rival power might try to invade them, so the world should invest a small proportion of its resources in trying to avert the risk of boiling the planet. The costs are not huge. The dangers are."

The untruths of the Internet

And finally, an appropriate final thought on this page: Can you trust the words you read on the internet? Tim Berners-Lee, the founder of the worldwide Web, doesn't think so. He recently warned that the Internet was becoming "a place where untruths start to spread more than truths."

The Guardian in the UK seems to agree: "We seem to inhabit parallel universes. While our day-to-day life is dragged ever more under the surveillance of CCTV cameras, data bases, loyalty cards and identity checks, the Web spirals out of control. Perhaps, indeed, it is because ordinary citizens feel so scrutinised in everything they do (someone somewhere knows not only where you shop and what you buy, but also where you live and what kind of health problems afflict you) that they run riot on the Web, forging imaginary identities and spinning fanciful tales."


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