Saddam may face death penalty, say Iraqis

Iraq could execute former leader Saddam Hussein if he is found guilty, the director of the country's war crimes tribunal system said yesterday.

Salem Chalabi, in charge of setting up a tribunal to try members of the ousted regime, said that after the Iraqi government gains sovereignty on 30 June, it will have the power to end the suspension of the death penalty decreed by the US occupation chief, Paul Bremer.

"The Iraqi government has to affirmatively take that step to lift the suspension," Mr Chalabi said on television yesterday. "If the suspension imposed by Ambassador Bremer is lifted there is the possibility of the death penalty being imposed", on those convicted of murder or rape.

Mr Chalabi said tribunal officials were "negotiating quite intensively with the coalition forces" about taking custody of Saddam and other detained members of his regime after the handover of power.

Reports claimed that coalition sources said a deal had been done for the new Iraqi administration, which would take legal custody of Saddam when it assumes control of the country on 30 June. US forces will continue to guard him.

In Iraq yesterday, insurgents tightened their grip on the vital airport road in Baghdad, killing two Iraqi soldiers and wounding 11 others - four critically - when they detonated a bomb beside the road as a convoy passed. The US Army concedes it no longer fully controls the road linking Baghdad to the airport by insisting that members of the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority, contractors and other foreigners travel on the four-lane highway only at certain times, totalling six hours a day. During these periods, traffic will be protected by stepped-up helicopter and vehicle patrols.

The airport road is probably the most important in Iraq, and the loss of the airport to US forces last year signalled the beginnings of the regime's collapse. The continued assertions by the Iraqi information minister at the time that the Iraqi army still held the airport were widely derided abroad.

Baghdad airport is mainly used by the military but there are a small number of civilian flights. Along the road, palm trees have been cut down and grass and shrubs burnt to deny guerrillas cover but attacks have increased over the past month. Roadside bombs, such as that used yesterday, typically consist of old 155mm and 122mm shells detonated either by a command wire or a remote control like those used to open garage doors or operate a child's toy.

The patrol attacked yesterday consisted of American and Iraqi soldiers. US soldiers said the ambushers waited for them to pass, then blew up the Iraqi vehicle. American troops took the Iraq wounded to a US medical treatment centre. As they waited for news of the wounded, Iraqi soldiers wept and were hugged by their American comrades, agency reports said.

"The hard-core terrorists don't care who they kill," said Lieutenant-Colonel Tim Ryan, commander of the 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment. "These guys are bigger targets than we are." The implication is that the insurgents are trying to inflict losses on the fledgling Iraqi army, still only 7,000 strong, before it can be organised.

Another reason why an Iraqi unit was attacked yesterday is that Iraqi soldiers are more vulnerable, because they are far less well-armed and protected than Americans. But the US wants to show Iraqi forces playing an active security role.

A typical joint US-Iraqi patrol on the airport consists of a US Humvee and, 50 yards back, a truck filled with Iraqi soldiers. The Iraqis, generally, do not have bullet-proof vests, sometimes do not wear helmets and carry old Kalashnikovs.

Violence continues at a high level throughout Iraq. On Saturday, there was an attempt to assassinate the Health Minister, Dr Aladdin al-Alwan, which failed but was followed by a gun battle in which seven Iraqi policemen were wounded. Ten Iraqis were killed and 12 wounded in battles with US forces north of Baghdad. A US Marine was killed in Anbar province west of Baghdad.

In Baghdad there were two loud explosions in the evening, and, earlier in the day, a mortar round landed near the Central Bank, wounding six policemen and four civilians. A US air strike in Fallujah on Saturday killed 22 people but there is still no agreement about who died. The Americans say that the two houses destroyed were used by militants led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who is blamed for leading the suicide bombing campaign.

But Iraqi officers in Fallujah denied this was true. "We inspected the damage, we looked through the bodies of the women and children and elderly. This was a family," said Brigadier Nouri Aboud of the Fallujah Brigade, the force of former Iraqi soldiers nominally in control of the city. He said there were no signs of foreigners in the houses, and added: "Zarqawi and his men have no presence in Fallujah."

¿ A videotape showing a South Korean hostage begging for his life and pleading with his government to withdraw its troops from Iraq was broadcast on the Arab television network al-Jazeera last night.The kidnappers identified themselves as belonging to a group led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, which is linked to al-Qa'ida. They gave South Korea 24 hours to meet its demand or "we will send you the head of this Korean". A South Korean station said the hostage was Kim Sun-il, 33, an employee of a South Korean company. It said he was captured in the Fallujah area.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Rob Lowe
peopleRob Lowe hits out at Obama's snub of Benjamin Netanyahu
Sport
football
News
Davies (let) says: 'Everybody thought we were having an affair. It was never true!'
people'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
News
Staff assemble outside the old City Road offices in London
mediaThe stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century at Britain's youngest paper
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us