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Iraq's highest appeals court on Tuesday upheld the death sentence for Saddam Hussein, and said it must be carried out within 30 days.
The sentence "must be implemented within 30 days," chief judge Aref Shahin. "From tomorrow, any day could be the day of implementation."
On Nov. 5, an Iraqi court sentenced Saddam to the gallows for the 1982 killings of 148 people in a single Shi'ite town after an attempt on his life there.
The decision of the appeals court must be ratified by President Jalal Talabani and Iraq's two vice presidents. Talabani opposes the death penalty but has, in the past, deputized a vice president to sign an execution order on his behalf - a substitute that has been legally accepted.
Raed Juhi, a spokesman for the High Tribunal court that convicted Saddam, said the Iraqi judicial system would ensure that Saddam is executed even if Talabani and the two vice presidents do not ratify the decision.
"We'll implement the verdict by the power of the law," Juhi said without elaborating.
An official on the High Tribunal court said the appeals court also upheld death sentences for Barzan Ibrahim, Saddam's half brother and intelligence chief during the Dujail killings, and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, head of Iraq's Revolutionary Court, which issued the death sentences against the Dujail residents.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity for security reasons, said the appeals court had concluded that the sentence of life imprisonment for former vice president Taha Yassin Ramadan was too lenient, and it returned his file to the High Tribunal. Ramadan had been convicted of premeditated murder in the Dujail case.
The High Tribunal official said the appeals court demanded the death penalty for Ramadan in a letter to the High Tribunal.
The official said the High Tribunal had received a copy of the appeals court's decision upholding the death sentence for Saddam.