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Saddam Hussein to hear his fate

From Jomana Karadsheh
CNN
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Saddam Hussein could be sentenced Sunday to death by hanging for his role in a brutal crackdown nearly 25 years ago in Dujail -- the once obscure Iraqi town that is now a symbol of his regime's cruelty.

The Iraqi High Tribunal is to convene in Baghdad to render verdicts and sentences for Hussein and seven co-defendants for their roles in a widescale, systematic attack on the Shiite town after someone tried to assassinate Hussein during a visit on July 8, 1982.

The prosecution is seeking the death penalty for the former dictator and two other defendants -- Barzan Hassan, Hussein's half-brother and former head of the intelligence agency, and Taha Yassin Ramadan, a former member of Hussein's Revolutionary Command Council.

The five-member tribunal will meet amid heavy security and sweeping curfews in Baghdad and elsewhere, as authorities brace for violent reactions to the verdicts.

This chapter of the much-criticized trial, which began in October 2005, comes nearly three years after U.S.-led forces plucked Hussein out of hiding and a few days before U.S. midterm elections on November 7.

Automatic appeals

Court and government officials painted a picture for reporters of what might unfold on Sunday.

Because the judgments could amount to hundreds of pages, the judges may read summarized versions. It is expected that the lower-ranking defendants will be dealt with before Hussein.

Reaching a verdict and sentence requires a majority vote among the five judges, and it is up to the trial's chief judge whether to allow defendants and their attorneys to speak.

If a defendant is found guilty, he can appeal. But the appeals process is dependent on the sentence. A sentence of life imprisonment or death allows for an automatic appeal.

There is no limit on how long the appellate judges have to review the case file, but the statute states that a death sentence should be carried out within 30 days after all appeals are exhausted.

Outbursts and walkouts

The Dujail trial, the first in what is a series of proceedings against former regime officials, began October 19, 2005, and ended July 27. It was a turbulent courtroom battle witnessed on TV across the globe.

It was marked by outbursts and harangues from Hussein and his co-defendants, lawyer walkouts, much-criticized court actions, and complaints from lawyers about poor security. There were grave concerns about security for legal teams and their families; three defense lawyers were killed.

Witness testimony and prosecutors got their case across, however. According to court documents, the military, political and security apparatus in Iraq and Dujail killed, arrested, detained and tortured men, women and children in the town. Homes were demolished and orchards were razed.

The Revolutionary Court sentenced 148 males to death, with Saddam's signature ratifying the order.

But there were other deaths as well -- nine people were killed during the destruction of orchards, and many of the 399 people who had been detained were either killed or remain missing.

Hussein, Hassan and Ramadan are charged with willful killing, deportation or forcible transfer of population; imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty in violation of fundamental norms of law; torture; enforced disappearance of persons, and other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering; or serious injury to the body or to the mental or physical health.

The prosecution is leaving the verdict and sentencing of Awad Hamad al-Bandar, the head of the Revolutionary Court, to the court's discretion. He is charged with willful killing by issuing the death sentences for the 148 people.

The remaining defendants are lower-level Baath Party officials from Dujail, who were charged with informing on Dujail residents who later died in prison or were sentenced to death. They are Abdullah Kadhem Ruwaid, Ali Dayem Ali, Mohammed Azzawi Ali, and Mizher Abdullah Ruwaid.

The prosecution wants the charges against Mohammed Azzawi Ali dropped, and leniency for the others.

CNN's Joe Sterling contributed to this report.


story.hussein.trial.afp.gi.jpg

Saddam Hussein listens to proceedings at his trial before the Iraqi High Tribunal in this file photo.

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