Saddam's former vice president to be executed

Court raises Taha Yassin Ramadan's sentence for the 1982 killings of 148 Shi'ites.

An Iraqi court on Monday raised the sentence against Saddam Hussein's vice president to death by hanging for the killings of Shi'ites in the town of Dujail. The decision had been expected after an appeals court ruled that Taha Yassin Ramadan's previous sentence of life in prison was too lenient. Ramadan is the fourth member of the ousted regime to face capital punishment for the killings of 148 Shi'ites after a 1982 attempt on Saddam's life in the mainly Shi'ite town of Dujail, north of Baghdad. Saddam, his half brother and former intelligence chief Barzan Ibrahim, and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, former head of Iraq's Revolutionary Court, were also sent to the gallows. Ramadan, who wore a traditional red and white checkered headdress, was silent during the reading of the verdict but reacted angrily afterward. "I swear to God that I'm innocent, Allah is my supporter and will take revenge on all who treated me unjustly!" he yelled. The chief judge, Ali al-Kahachi, then ordered him to be taken out of the courtroom. He said the case would be automatically appealed. Ramadan was convicted on November 5, 2006 of murder, forced deportation and torture and subsequently sentenced to life in prison. A month later, the appeals court said the sentence was too lenient, and returned his case to the High Tribunal, demanding he be sentenced to death. The court agreed to turn it to a death sentence. Three other defendants were sentenced to 15 years in jail in the case, while one was acquitted. Saddam was hanged on December 30, 2006, while Ibrahim and al-Bandar were executed January 15, 2007, provoking anger among their fellow Sunnis after the former leader's half brother was decapitated on the gallows. The decision to impose the maximum sentence against Ramadan came despite appeals from human rights groups. Human Rights Watch and the International Center for Transitional Justice issued a joint statement on the eve of the hearing saying the evidence was insufficient for such a punishment. "The tribunal found Ramadan guilty without evidence linking him to the horrific crimes committed in Dujail," said Richard Dicker, director of the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch. "Ramadan was convicted in an unfair trial, and increasing his punishment from life imprisonment to death reeks of vengeance."