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Monday, June 19, 2006

4 lower-level baathists may get off more lightly.

Iraqi prosecutors asked a judge Monday to sentence Saddam Hussein to death for his role in the killings of 148 villagers after a 1982 assassination attempt in the village of Dujail. Prosecutors also requested the death penalty for Saddam's half-brother Barzan al-Tikriti, former Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan and the former chief judge of Saddam's Revolutionary Court, Awad Hamed al-Bandar, in closing statements at their trial for crimes against humanity.

"The prosecution demand that the court impose the heaviest penalties on those defendants who spread corruption on earth and where not even trees escape their oppression, so we demand the court impose the death penalty," chief Prosecutor Jaafar al-Moussawi told chief Judge Raouf Abdel-Rahman.

The ousted president smiled from the dock as the prosecutor called for him to be sent to the gallows.

Saddam, Barzan, Ramadan, Bandar and four local Baath Party officials face death if convicted for their roles in a crackdown against villagers in Dujail.

Presenting his final remarks, Moussawi said that "the charges against the defendants are of murder, extreme deprivation of people, torture and forcibly hiding people.

"These are crimes against humanity because it has happened under a wide assault and was organized by authorities against a group of citizens."

Abdel-Rahman adjourned the trial until July 10, when the defense team should deliver its final remarks.

The prosecutor, however, asked that charges be dropped against defendant Mohammad Azzam Azzawi, a former official of the ruling Baath Party with responsibility for the Dujail area, and that he be released. He said that the evidence was not sufficient against him.

Moussawi also asked the court to show leniency to three other local Baath Party officials - Ali Daeh Ali, Abdullah Khadem Ruweid and his son Mezhar Abdullah Ruweid, saying they committed their "acts to carry out orders issued by their superiors."

The prosecutor said he would leave it to the court to decide on the appropriate punishment for Bandar, the former chief judge of the revolutionary court and deputy head of Saddam's office. Moussawi said Bandar's actions "supported the crimes" committed by the others.

Monday's hearing was attended by all of the eight defendants, but without some of their attorneys.

The judge signaled an end to the defense phase on June 13 even though defense lawyers had asked for more time to prepare their case.

In his arguments, Moussawi cast doubt on whether there was a real attempt to kill Saddam. But he said even if there was, the regime's response went far beyond a real investigation into the shooting.

"The military operation that followed the assassination attempt was a revenge attack in which excessive force was used as a response to this simple incident," he said.

The argument aimed to counter the defense's contention that the crackdown was a legitimate response to the shooting.

"Entire families were imprisoned, including old men, women and children .. They were taken to mukhabarat headquarters in Baghdad, and they suffered from physical and mental torture, including electrical shocks."

Forty-six people died from torture or the conditions of imprisonment, he said. The Revolutionary Court then sentenced 148 to death after a "show trial in which the defendants did not appear and had no chance for defense," he said

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