BAGHDAD - The execution of former dictator Saddam Hussein Saturday could bring more instability in an increasingly violent and chaotic occupation.
The execution followed a decision by a court of appeal Dec. 26 to uphold the death sentence for Saddam. Chief judge Aref Shahin said following confirmation of the death sentence: "From tomorrow, any day could be the day of implementation."
Video from Iraqi state television showed a noose being placed around Saddam Husseinís neck before his hanging early Saturday. (Iraqi Television, via Associated Press)
Saddam was executed on the morning of the Muslim festival Eid.
Saddam was convicted last month for ordering the killing of 148 Shias in Dujail town in 1982 in revenge for an assassination attempt against him. He was sentenced to death by hanging.
The completion of the nine-month trial saw 39 court sessions, through which three defence lawyers and a witness were murdered. The execution now will most likely inflame Iraq's political divide further.
Hashim al-Ubaydi's son was sentenced to death by a 'revolution court' of the Saddam regime. But he was not pleased to confront the imminent execution of Saddam Hussein.
"I was an opponent of Saddam and his policies, but I support putting him through a real national court away from occupation influence. I cannot forgive or forget that my son was executed, but as an Iraqi nationalist I cannot accept to see the president of my country put to trial in such a ridiculous way by invaders and their tails."
Many Iraqi leaders say the timing of the execution will enlarge the cracks between already divided Iraqis.
The Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS), the leading Sunni group, whose members were listed on Saddam's most wanted list prior to the U.S.-led invasion and occupation, has expressed deep concern about the consequences of execution.
AMS secretary-general Dr. Harith al-Dhari rejects suggestions that Saddam was a leader of Sunnis. He says 35 of the 55 most wanted persons by U.S. occupation authorities following the invasion were Shias.
The execution by a Shia-dominated government now was timed to meet demands made by some Shia leaders. "Saddam must be executed on the first day of Eid (the Muslim Holiday)," a leader of the Shia Sadr Movement told reporters two days back. "We demand live broadcast of the execution."
While not broadcast live, footage of his last moments and then of his shrouded body was shown on Iraqi television and consequently around the world.
The execution led to celebrations as well as misgivings.
But not everybody was celebrating even within Kurdistan where Saddam carried out some of his most repressive policies. "I hate Saddam and always wished him the death he deserved for his attitude against my Kurdish nation," Sardar Herki from Sulaymaniya in northern Iraq told IPS on phone shortly before the execution. "I still wish him death -- but together with his successors who killed half the population of Iraq and arrested the other half."
Compared with the present scenario, many Iraqis have begun to see the Saddam days as a "golden time", a political science teacher told IPS. A report in the medical journal Lancet says more than 655,000 Iraqis have died unnaturally as a result of the occupation.
"Iraqis would have not objected so much if the situation had been improved by Saddam's executors," the teacher said. "His time was certainly not a golden time, but Iraqis felt proud of his policies against Iranian and American arrogance and greed. He managed to feed his people and provide them with security and basic services despite all the wars they fought, and the UN sanctions against Iraq."
The defence team had objected to the verdict.
"The whole court procedures were illegal right from the beginning," Khalil al-Dulaimy, chief of Saddam's defence team told reporters in Baghdad. Saddam Hussein, he said, had been a prisoner of war and under international law he should not have been handed over to his opponents.
International human rights organisations had asked for suspension of the death sentence, while arguing that Saddam was denied a fair trial. Human Rights Watch has reported that the trail was marred by political interference.
In a statement that seems to warn of impending violence and increasing political divide, the Ba'ath Party, formerly led by Saddam, has threatened it would target U.S. interests following execution of Saddam.
"Our party warns again of the consequences of executing Mr. President and his comrades," said a statement that appeared on a website known to represent the party, once the execution became imminent. "The Ba'ath and the resistance are determined to retaliate, with all means and everywhere, to harm America and its interests if it commits this crime."
Copyright © 2006 IPS-Inter Press Service