Iraqi PM says he will allow court to decide whether Saddam should be executed


BAGHDAD, Iraq, AP

Iraq’s interim prime minister said Monday that he would not interfere with an Iraqi tribunal’s right to decide whether Saddam Hussein and his top lieutenants should be executed on war crimes charges, the Arab language television station Al-Arabiya reported.

Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said he was willing to abide by whatever the court decides in the trial, which is not expected to begin for months. Iraq assumed legal custody of Saddam from the United States last week and re-instituted the death penalty, which had been suspended by U.S. occupation authorities.

“As for the execution, that is for the court to decide — so long as a decision is reached impartially and fairly,” he said.

Saddam’s first court appearance Thursday dominated the media across Iraq, and revived debate over his eventual fate. The broadly outlined charges include the slaughter of Shiites during a 1991 uprising and a chemical weapons attack against Kurds in the northern city of Halabja.

Thousands of Kurds demonstrated Monday in Halabja, demanding that Saddam and one of his key lieutenants — Ali Hassan al-Majid, also known as “Chemical Ali” — be put to death for the gas attack that killed 5,000 people on March 16, 1988. Carrying photos of their slain loved ones, the marchers said they want Saddam to be tried and executed in their town.

“Every family in this city lost no less than five of its dear sons,” said one demonstrator, Sabiha Ali, 50. “Therefore, we want to execute Saddam on the soil of the land.”

Iraq has been wracked by lawlessness and violence since the fall of Saddam’s regime 14 months ago.

Iraq’s oil exports were cut nearly in half as workers struggled Monday to repair a key pipeline shut down after looters sabotaged the line, officials with the South Oil Company and traders said.