Iraqi Execution Saddam's Former Deputy Hanged

The former vice president of Iraq, Taha Yassin Ramadan, has gone to the gallows for his role in the killing of 148 Shiites in Dujail in 1982. Unlike the executions of Saddam Hussein and his half-brother, the hanging went smoothly, but human rights organizations criticized the death sentence.

Former Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan, shown here holding a picture of Saddam Hussein, has been executed in Baghdad.

Former Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan, shown here holding a picture of Saddam Hussein, has been executed in Baghdad.

Saddam Hussein's former deputy has been executed -- four years to the day after the start of the American-led invasion of Iraq. Taha Yassin Ramadan, who was vice president of Iraq when the regime was ousted, was hanged in Baghdad in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

He was the fourth man to be executed for the killing of 148 Shiites in the village of Dujail following an assassination attempt on Saddam in 1982. Ramadan had been convicted in November of murder, forced deportation and torture, and was sentenced to life imprisonment. However an appeals court found this punishment to be too lenient and changed the sentence to the death penalty. That sentence was confirmed last Thursday.

"At 3 a.m. Ramadan was executed in Baghdad in the presence of his lawyer," Iraqi government spokesman Ali Dabbagh announced Tuesday. The prisoner had been in US custody and was handed over to the Iraqi authorities about an hour before the hanging, which was carried out at an Iraqi army and police base.

His defense lawyer Badee Izzat Aref said that Ramadan had been allowed to call his family, who live abroad, and had asked for their prayers. The former vice president asked to be buried near Saddam in the village of Ouja near Tikrit. After the hanging, Ramadan's son Ahmad told Al-Jazeera television: "It was not an execution. It was political assassination."

Ramadan had been number 20 on Washington's most-wanted list and was captured by Kurdish fighters in August 2003 and handed over to US forces. He was widely seen as being as ruthless as Saddam and presided over many purges to eliminate political rivals; he once headed a court that executed 44 officers for planning to overthrow the regime. In 2002, in the run up to the US-led invasion, Ramadan proposed that Saddam and US President George W. Bush should settle their differences in a duel with weapons of their choice.

Saddam was executed in December 2006 for his part in the Dujail massacre and his half-brother Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti and former judge Awad Hamed al-Bandar were hanged for the crime in January.

The European Union, which opposes the death penalty on principle, criticized the hangings at the time. The United States and several Arab countries also criticized the way the men had been executed: A video of Saddam being taunted by his executors provoked fury among Sunnis, while Barzan Ibrahim was inadvertently decapitated on the gallows during his hanging.

In an attempt to ensure that this execution went smoothly, the 70-year-old Ramadan was weighed before the hanging, and the correct-length rope was chosen accordingly.

Human Rights Watch and the International Center for Transitional Justice complained that there had not been enough evidence against Ramadan to merit the death penalty. The United Nations human rights chief Louise Arbour filed a legal challenge last month with the Iraqi High Tribunal to prevent the sentence being carried out, saying she recognized "the desire for justice of victims," but the trial had "failed to meet the standards of due process."

Other leading members of Saddam's regime are being tried in a separate case. The six defendants, including Ali Hassan al-Majid -- also known as "Chemical Ali" -- are accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity in connection with the so-called Anfal campaign of 1987 and 1988, during which Kurdish villages were bombed with poisonous gas, killing between 50,000 and 180,000 people.


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