Accessibility links

Iraqi Shi'ites Urge Execution of Saddam Hussein - 2004-01-20

Thousands of supporters of a radical young Shi'ite Muslim cleric have been marching in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities.

The demonstrators in Baghdad called for the execution of ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, who is now in U.S. custody. They said they objected to the recent American decision to treat Saddam as a prisoner of war and asked that he be tried and sentenced by an Iraqi court.

Protesters also chanted slogans critical of proposals to set up a federal system in Iraq, which they fear would give too much power to Kurds and Sunni Muslims. Most Iraqis are Shi'ite, but power under Saddam was held mostly by Sunnis.

Tuesday's protests were called by Moqtada al-Sadr, who has gathered many followers among young Shi'ites since the fall of Saddam.

On Monday, larger demonstrations were held to support a call by Iraq's leading Shi'ite cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, for direct election of a provisional government, rather than a U.S. plan to choose interim leaders.

United Nations Secretary general Kofi Annan agreed Monday to consider a request by the U.S. led coalition and the Iraqi Governing Council for U.N. experts to determine if elections are possible before a planned June 30 transfer of sovereignty.

The chief U.S. administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, says Shi'ite members of the Governing Council told him Ayatollah Sistani is likely to accept a United Nations position.

The U.S. backed plan for transition to self-rule in Iraq calls for countrywide regional caucuses to chose an interim government, which would organize direct elections before the end of 2005.

Some information for this report provided by AP and AFP.