Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Execution or political assassination?

What can we learn about the death penalty from the report below? Note the contention of the defendant's son that his father was the victim of a "political assassination." Note also that the trial court sentence of life imprisonment was overruled on appeal as being too light. I also find it interesting that the Prime Minister's adviser not only spoke about how terrified the defendant was as he was led to the gallows, but also opined that the execution was not marred by unseemly problems. Does the Iraqi government always get it right? Does any government always get it right? The whole thing is so macabre that I am left without anything more to say.

SADDAM Hussein's vice-president was hanged yesterday despite protests by human rights groups that the evidence was weak and the sentence unfair. Taha Yassin Ramadan, the highest-ranking person from Saddam's government to be executed after the former president, was fearful as he was led to the gallows, said Bassam Ridha, adviser to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

"He was scared, terrified, very terrified," Mr Ridha said. However, Mr Ridha said the hanging was not plagued by the problems that marred the executions of Saddam and his half-brother, which outraged Iraqis* * * *

Ramadan was convicted in November along with six others, including Saddam, for his role in the 1982 massacre of 148 Shiites in a small town north of Baghdad after an assassination attempt on the Iraqi president.

The trial court that sentenced Saddam to death sentenced Ramadan to life in prison, but an appeals court ruled the punishment was too light. The trial court then sentenced him to death last month. Despite being a senior official in the Saddam regime, Ramadan was a relatively minor figure in the trial. The accusations against him largely centred on his order that orchards and fields in the Dujayl area be bulldozed, and evidence was presented about his participation in meetings with other leaders who were more culpable in the massacres* * * *

"The trial was riddled with flaws and didn't meet international standards," said Sara Dareshori, senior counsel with Human Rights Watch in New York. Ramadan's son, Ahmad, said his father would be buried in the area of the Iraqi city of Tikrit near Saddam's burial place.

"It was not an execution. It was a political assassination," Ramadan's son told al-Jazeera television by telephone from the Yemeni capital, Sanaa.

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