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Iraq's Shi'ites Celebrate, Sunnis Protest, as Saddam Found Guilty


Iraq's Shi'ites were celebrating Sunday's court decision to sentence former president Saddam Hussein to death by hanging, as the case against Saddam moved to the appeal stage.

The decision automatically triggered an appeal, expected to last about four weeks. If the sentence is not overturned, it must be carried out within 30 days.

On Sunday, Iraqi Shi'ites in Baghdad's Sadr City and in the holy city of Najaf danced in the streets after they heard the news.

Speaking on Iraqi television, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Saddam's eventual execution may provide comfort to families of the thousands of people killed by his regime.

But in Saddam's hometown Tikirit in northern Iraq, demonstrators chanted in support of the former leader.

Iraq's High Tribunal found Saddam guilty of ordering the killing of 148 Shi'ites after an assassination attempt against the president in 1982.

As his sentence was read out on Sunday, a visibly shaken Saddam yelled out "Long Live Iraq" and "God is Great."

The court also sentenced two of Saddam's co-defendants to death, including his half brother , Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, and the former chief judge of Saddam's Revolutionary Court, Awad Hamed al-Bander.

It also sentenced former Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan to life in prison, and three other former Ba'ath party officials were sentenced to up to 15 years in prison.

The seventh co-defendant, Mohammed Azawi Ali, also a Ba'ath party member, was acquitted for lack of evidence.

Former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is also on trial on genocide charges for his military campaign against Iraqi Kurds in the late 1980s, including the 1988 poison gas attack on the town of Halabja. Saddam began the Anfal campaign after accusing the Kurds of aiding Iran during the Iran-Iraq war.

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