Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein
yells at the court as the verdict is delivered during his trial held under
tight security in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone, Sunday November
5, 2006. Iraq's High Tribunal on Sunday found Saddam Hussein guilty of
crimes against humanity and sentence him to die by hanging.
Saddam Hussein's death sentence was
celebrated by some on Sunday as justice deserved or even divine, but denounced
by others as a political ploy two days before critical US midterm congressional
Worldwide, the range of reactions -- including a European outcry over capital
punishment and doubts about the fairness of the tribunal that ordered Saddam to
hang -- reflected new geopolitical fault lines drawn after America's decision to
invade Iraq in 2003 and depose its dictator.
The European Union welcomed the verdict but said Saddam should not be put to
death. At the Vatican, Cardinal Renato Martino, Pope Benedict XVI's top prelate
for justice issues, called the sentence a throwback to "eye for an eye"
"This is not the way to present the new Iraq to the world, which is different
from Saddam, who was behind hundreds of thousands of deaths as well as death
penalty sentences," said Hands Off Cain, an Italian organization working to rid
the world of capital punishment.
Islamic leaders warned that executing Saddam could inflame those who revile
the US, undermining US President Bush's policy in the Middle East and inspiring
"The hanging of Saddam Hussein will turn to hell for the Americans," said
Vitaya Wisethrat, a respected Muslim cleric in Thailand, which has its own
Islamic insurgency in the country's south.
"The Saddam case is not a Muslim problem but the problem of America and its
domestic politics," he said. "Maybe Bush will use this case to tell the voters
that Saddam is dead and that the Americans are safe. But actually the American
people will be in more danger with the death of Saddam."
Bush called the verdict "a milestone in the Iraqi people's efforts to replace
the rule of a tyrant with the rule of law."
Praising the Iraqi judiciary for its independence, the White House denied
arranging for the verdict to be announced just two days before pivotal elections
in which Democrats are fighting for control of Congress.
"The idea is preposterous," said Tony Snow, Bush's spokesman.
Yet there was a touch of contempt as well, reminiscent of the international
response when the United States failed to find the weapons of mass destruction
Bush insisted had made Saddam such a threat.
Intervening militarily was "a grave error," said Spanish Prime Minister Jose
Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, whose country withdrew its troops from Iraq, contending
that conditions there have worsened since the US-led invasion.