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Saddam death verdict may tear Iraq apart

With Saddam Hussein having been awarded death, the sectarian rift between Sunnis and Shi'ites in Iraq is set to deepen.

November 7, 2006

The 69-year-old former dictator of Iraq was sentenced to death by hanging on Sunday, as he defiantly shouted at the judge "Allahu Akbar!" and "Long live Iraq" throughout the trial. Saddam’s half-brother, Barzan al-Tikriti, and former judge Awad aL-Bander were also sentenced to death for killing, torturing and deporting hundreds of people from the Shi'ite town of Dujail after Shi'ite gunmen tried to kill Mr Hussein there in 1982.

While there has been celebration in most parts of Iraq, the international community believes that he should not have been given the death sentence. Many react in disgust, and believe that the verdict will deepen the divide between the people of the war-torn Iraq.

A curfew is currently on the capital city of Baghdad and Shi'ites are in celebration, while Sunnis protested vowing to avenge Saddam. There also has been talks that the verdict has to do something with the US elections.

Iraq has a history of conflict for the past 1,000-plus years. There are Shi'ites, Sunnis, Muslims, Christians and Kurds, a mix which has always been problematic. But now that has been amplified further by the country's geographic location and its oil reserves.

Meanwhile, as protests grew in strength, Iraqi interior ministry has ordered closing down two Sunni satellite TV stations accusing them of inciting sectarian violence. The employees of First Channel and Salaheddin TV have been ordered to leave their offices in Tikrit, Hussein's hometown.

Protesters were seen carrying posters of Saddam Hussein and shooting into the air. A complete ban on mass movements has been was imposed in the provinces of Baghdad, Diyala and Salaheddin.

On the other side, celebrating Iraqis were seen holding aloft pictures of Muqtada al Sadr's grandfather, the cleric who was murdered by Hussein in the 1980s. “The killer deserves to be killed” was the slogan they were continuously shouting.

In what could be seen as a victory for the US, President Bush termed the verdict as a milestone in the Iraqi people's efforts to replace the rule of a tyrant with the rule of law.

Within 10 days, the court will forward the cases of Hussein and three other defendants to the appellate chamber of the Iraqi High Tribunal. Appeals of death penalties and life sentences are automatic. And, in 20 days after the appeals are made, the prosecution and the defence would be asked to submit their documents to the appellate chamber.

The supporters of the former Iraqi President are of the opinion that the Iraqis have the right to ask whether crimes being committed today are not unlike the crimes under the Saddam Hussein regime.




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