An Iraqi court sentenced Saddam Hussein to
death today for ordering the execution of 148 men in Dujail, Iraq, in
Thousands of people in Baghdad took to the streets to celebrate the
verdict. The Iraqi High Tribunal sentenced two other defendants to death
and four to prison and acquitted one.
In anticipation of the verdict, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki
had imposed a curfew in Baghdad and two Diyala and Salaheddin provinces.
The two provinces are primarily Sunni and were the base of Saddam's
support during his dictatorship. Shiite and Kurdish provinces were not
"The Saddam Hussein era is in the past now, as was the era of Hitler
and Mussolini," al-Maliki said following the verdict. "We want an Iraq
where all Iraqis are equal before the law," he said. "The policy of
discrimination and persecution is over."
U.S. forces captured Saddam hiding in a hole in the ground in December
2003. In a written statement, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad
called the verdict "an important milestone for Iraq as the country
takes another major step forward in the building of a free society based on
the rule of law."
Khalilzad said the verdicts demonstrate the commitment of the Iraqi
people to hold the members of the former regime accountable for their
All involved in the case showed courage in proceeding with it, the
ambassador said. Baathist "dead-enders" tried to intimidate members of the
court, and insurgents killed three defense lawyers in the course of the
trial, he noted.
"Their determination to pursue justice is a signal that the rule of law
will prevail in Iraq despite the difficult situation that the country
now faces," Khalilzad said. "A former dictator feared by millions, who
killed his own citizens without mercy or justice, who waged wars against
neighboring countries, has been brought to trial in his own country -
held accountable in a court of law with ordinary citizens bearing
The ambassador said that although Iraq may face difficult days in the
coming weeks, "closing the book on Saddam and his regime is an
opportunity to unite and build a better future. As the Iraqi people move
forward, the United States will support them in their efforts to build a just
and democratic society."
Saddam's case will be appealed automatically to the Appellate Chamber
of the Iraqi High Tribunal. The defense has 30 days to file any motions.