Page last updated at 21:11 GMT, Wednesday, 27 December 2006

Q&A: Saddam on trial

Saddam Hussein has been found guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced to death by an Iraqi court for his part in the killing of 148 Shia Muslims in Dujail in the 1980s.

Six co-defendants have also been convicted - two of these received death sentences, while another four received jail terms. A seventh was acquitted because of a lack of evidence.

Saddam Hussein is also being tried separately for genocide and crimes against humanity over the killing of tens of thousands of Kurds during Operation Anfal in 1988.

What was the sentence?

Saddam Hussein was sentenced on 5 November to death by hanging for his role in the killing of some 148 people in the mostly Shia town of Dujail, seized after a failed assassination attempt against him.

What happens next?

Saddam Hussein appealed against his conviction but Iraq's Appeals Court upheld the verdict and sentence on 26 December.

Under Iraqi law, sentence must be carried out within 30 days of the result of the appeal.

The time and location of the hanging has not been made public, although Saddam Hussein is expected to be executed before the Anfal trial concludes.

In addition, the defendants may face other charges relating, for instance, to the suppression of the 1991 Shia and Kurdish uprisings or the wars with Iran and Kuwait.

How did Saddam Hussein fight the Dujail case?

From the start, his lawyers questioned the legitimacy of the court.

His defence witnesses said the Dujail men had been sentenced to death after a fair trial.

The defence argued the crackdown was a legitimate action against people seeking to assassinate the head of state.

Three of Saddam Hussein's lawyers were assassinated, prompting a boycott of the trial by their colleagues and a hunger strike by the ex-leader himself.

In a letter to the court near the end of proceedings, Saddam Hussein said the trial had been driven by "malicious" US desire.

Is the tribunal fair?

The trials have been taking place at Iraq's Special Tribunal (IST) in a heavily guarded courtroom inside Baghdad's fortress-like Green Zone.

A panel of five judges has been hearing the televised trials which follow Iraqi civil law and do not have a jury.

In contrast to most international tribunals, Saddam Hussein has been tried by his own countrymen.

Defendants have heard the charges against them in person and the former leader has had the right to call witnesses.

International human rights groups have expressed concern about a legal process where guilt does not have to be proven "beyond a reasonable doubt", as in international trials.

Instead, the Iraqi tribunal has only to be "satisfied" of guilt.

Questions have been raised about the quality of some of the prosecution evidence and testimony, and there are allegations that some witnesses have been coached by prosecutors.

The tribunal was set up under occupation and some have questioned the extent of legal consultation prior to the tribunal's creation.

The assassination of three defence lawyers and the replacement of the original chief judge in the Dujail case also raised questions.

What happened to Saddam Hussein's co-defendants?

Seven co-defendants were also tried in the Dujail case.

  • Taha Yassin Ramadan, former Iraqi vice-president, was sentenced to life in prison.

    The Appeals Court however said Ramadan's sentence was too lenient and returned it to the High Tribunal for consideration of the death penalty.

  • Awad Hamed al-Bandar, former head of Iraq's Revolutionary Court, was sentenced to death.
  • Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, Saddam Hussein's half-brother and former head of the intelligence service, was sentenced to death.
  • Abdullah Kadhem Ruaid, former senior Baath official in the Dujail region, was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
  • Mizhar Abdullah Ruaid, former senior Baath official in the Dujail region, was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
  • Ali Daeem Ali, former senior Baath official in the Dujail region, was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
  • Mohammed Azawi Ali, former Baath party official in the Dujail region, was acquitted due to a lack of sufficient evidence.

In the Anfal case, the best-known co-defendant is the ex-leader's cousin, Ali Hassan Majid, popularly as known Chemical Ali.

The other six are former Defence Minister Sultan Hashim Ahmed, former intelligence chief Saber Abdul Aziz, former Republican Guard commander Hussein Rashid al-Tikriti, former Nineveh Governor Taher Muhammad al-Ani and former military commander Farhan al-Jibouri.

What is the Anfal trial about?

Saddam Hussein faces charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity over a campaign against the Kurds dating back to the late 1980s.

All the other defendants are also charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity but only Saddam Hussein's cousin, Ali Hassan Majid, additionally faces genocide charges.

Iraqi Kurds were killed or displaced as a result of repressive decrees and military operations forcing them out of "prohibited areas" of northern Iraq.

On the opening day of the trial, the prosecution told the court that up to 180,000 civilians had been killed.

Saddam Hussein refused to enter a plea and the chief judge entered a Not Guilty plea on his behalf.

Saddam Hussein has challenged the legitimacy of the court, calling it a tool of the US-led occupation.

However, the defence has sought to portray the campaign as a legitimate counter-insurgency operation against Kurdish militias accused of helping Iran in the Iran-Iraq war.

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