Saddam lawyers appeal former president's death sentence

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The Independent Online

Saddam Hussein's lawyers yesterday appealed the death sentence against their client and accused the Iraqi court of trying to delay the process.

Five Iraqi judges on November 5 sentenced Saddam and two other senior members of his regime to death by hanging for the killing of 148 people in the town of Dujail, north of Baghdad, following a 1982 attempt there on the life of the ousted leader.

Under Iraqi law, death sentences are automatically appealed before a higher court within 10 days of their passage. But defence lawyers must file a formal appeal within 30 days, detailing the legal grounds for their action and presenting new evidence that could support their clients' claims of innocence. The lawyers could also make a plea for leniency.

"Today, defence lawyers came to the court and filed an appeal against the death sentence passed against Saddam Hussein and other sentences in the Dujail case," Iraqi High Tribunal spokesman Raid Juhi told The Associated Press.

Saddam's chief lawyer, Khalil al-Dulaimi, said two lawyers on the defence team had submitted the papers. He complained that defence lawyers had not received copies of the verdict until Nov. 23, delaying the process.

"Finally we were able to do it," al-Dulaimi said. "We had to hastily prepare the appeal because the court procrastinated in giving us the documents necessary for the submission in a bid to obstruct the appeal process."

Saddam's half brother and intelligence chief during the Dujail killings, Barzan Ibrahim, was sentenced to join the former leader on the gallows, as was Awad Hamed al-Bandar, head of Iraq's Revolutionary Court, which issued the death sentences against the Dujail residents.

Iraq's former Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan was convicted of premeditated murder and sentenced to life in prison.

Three defendants were given up to 15 years in prison for torture and premeditated murder. Abdullah Kazim Ruwayyid and his son, Mizhar Abdullah Ruwayyid, were party officials in Dujail, along with Ali Dayih Ali. They were believed responsible for the Dujail arrests.

A local Baath Party official Mohammed Azawi Ali, was acquitted for lack of evidence

The nine-judge, higher court does not have a time limit for ruling on the appeal. But the death sentences passed against Saddam, Ibrahim and al-Bandar must be carried out within a maximum of 30 days from the day they are upheld by the higher court.

Jaafar Moussawi, the chief prosecutor in the Dujail case, said in November that the trio could be hanged by the middle of January. Also in November, the AP learned that Iraq's three-man presidential council has agreed at least six months before the sentences were passed not to block the death penalty for Saddam, should it be upheld.

Saddam is being tried separately on charged of genocide linked to a military campaign in the 1980s against Iraq's minority Kurds in which tens of thousands of people are thought to have been killed. If convicted, the former leader could receive a second death sentence.