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Saddam Hussein Sentenced to Death for Crimes Against Humanity


An Iraqi court has convicted Saddam Hussein of crimes against humanity and sentenced the former dictator to death by hanging. Celebrations and scattered protests erupted throughout Iraq after the verdict was announced.

A visibly upset Saddam Hussein shouts "God is great" and "Long live Iraq," as the court's chief judge delivers the final verdict.

The Iraqi High Tribunal convicted Saddam of ordering the killing of 148 Shi'ite men in the village of Dujail, just north of Baghdad, in 1982.

As he was led out of court, Saddam defiantly called the judge a traitor, and denounced what he called "the occupiers in Iraq."

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said the verdict closes a particularly dark chapter in the country's history.

He says the decision also signals the start of a new era in Iraq. One, he says, where everyone is equal in the eyes of the law.

The U.S. ambassador in Baghdad also released a statement calling the verdict an important milestone for Iraq.

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

Former vice president Taha Yassin Ramadan received life in prison. Three other defendants received 15-year sentences; an eighth was cleared of all charges.

Celebratory gunfire erupted throughout much of the capital Sunday after the death sentence was announced. In Baghdad's largest Shi'ite community, Sadr City, jubilant demonstrators were dancing in the streets.

Chief defense attorney Khalil al-Dulaimi said that, during a meeting with his lawyers, Saddam Hussein urged the Iraqi people to, "... avoid any act of vengeance targeting the nationals of countries that participated in the occupation of Iraq." He also said Saddam called for Iraqis to reject sectarian violence.

A strict daytime curfew is still officially in effect across the capital and in two neighboring provinces to avoid violence. Nevertheless, local media reported several protests in mostly Sunni neighborhoods in northern Baghdad.

And, in Saddam's hometown of Tikrit, about two-thousand supporters defied the curfew and staged a mass protest.