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Talabani opposes death penalty for Saddam

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President Talabani says he is against capital punishment and would not back an execution.
April 19, 2005


Iraqi president alone in opposing execution

By Jamie Tarabay

BAGHDAD, Iraq - The largest political bloc in Iraq's new government demanded the execution of Saddam Hussein if the ousted leader is convicted of war crimes, and said Monday that President Jalal Talabani should step down if he is not prepared to sign the death warrant.

``This is something that cannot be discussed at all,'' said Ali al-Dabagh, a spokesman for the clergy-led United Iraqi Alliance, which holds 140 seats in Iraq's 275-member National Assembly. ``We feel he is a criminal. He is the No. 1 criminal in the world. He is a murderer.''

Talabani, a former Kurdish rebel leader, told the British Broadcasting Corp. on Monday that signing a death warrant for Saddam would be contrary to his beliefs as a human rights advocate and opponent of capital punishment.

``I personally signed a call for ending execution throughout the world, and I'm respecting my signature,'' Talabani told the BBC. He conceded, however, that he was probably alone in the government in holding this view.

``No one is listening to me, to be frank with you,'' Talabani told the BBC. ``My two partners in the presidency, the government, the House, all of them are for sentencing Saddam Hussein to death before the court will decide.''

Saddam and his top lieutenants will be tried before the Iraqi Special Tribunal established in late 2003. The tribunal has given no official dates for starting the trials, although national security adviser Mouwafak al-Rubaie said this month that Saddam could go on trial by year's end.

The death penalty was reintroduced in Iraq in August 2004 for crimes including murder, endangering national security and drug trafficking. But it is only meant to be a temporary measure in the effort to stamp out the country's insurgency.

Al-Dabagh, a member of the Shiite majority long oppressed under Saddam's rule, said Saddam's execution was not negotiable.

``If the court says he's a criminal, we will follow it,'' al-Dabagh told The Associated Press. Talabani ``is now the president, and he should follow the law. If he doesn't want to sign it, then he should resign the presidency.''

Talabani said he might abstain from making a decision and leave it to his two deputies.

``I can go on holiday and let the two others decide,'' he told the BBC.

Saddam was captured north of Baghdad in December 2003 and has been in custody with several of his top aides at a U.S.-guarded detention facility near Baghdad's international airport.

He spends his days in a 10 by 13 foot cell and ``seems to be enjoying himself'' reading books, national security adviser Mouwafak al-Rubaie said.

``He chooses every day books, from hundreds of choices - literature, fiction, not political stuff,'' al-Rubaie said.

Saddam was also allowed to watch a recording of the election of the presidency council, and continues to write what al-Rubaie called ``rubbishy'' poetry. He could not provide an example.

Created by keza
Last modified 2005-05-22 03:55 AM

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