Saddam still in US custody

Updated: 2006-12-29 21:46

Cardinal Renato Martino, Pope Benedict XVI's top prelate for justice issues and a former Vatican envoy to the U.N., condemned the death sentence in a newspaper interview published Thursday, saying capital punishment goes against the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

After Saddam's death sentence was handed down last month, Louise Arbour, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, urged Iraq to ensure a fair appeals process and to refrain from executing Saddam even if the sentence is upheld.

Some international legal observers and human rights groups have also called Saddam's trial unfair because of alleged interference by the Shiite-dominated government.

But State Department Deputy Spokesman Tom Casey said Thursday the Bush administration believes the trial was held in accordance with international and Iraqi laws.

"(The Iraqis) carried out their work in a transparent and open manner and they arrived at a verdict based on the facts in the case," Casey said.

News of Saddam's impending execution came as the US military reported the deaths of eight more troops and announced that Iraqi forces, backed by American forces, captured an al-Qaida in Iraq cell leader believed responsible for the June kidnapping of two soldiers who were found tortured and killed.

With at least 72 more Iraqis killed Thursday in violence, US officials and Iraqis expressed concern about the potential for even worse bloodshed following Saddam's execution. Al-Dulaimi, the lawyer, said transferring Saddam to Iraqi authorities could be the trigger.

"If the American administration insists in handing the president to the Iraqis, it would commit a great strategic mistake which would lead to the escalation of the violence in Iraq and the eruption of a destructive civil war," he said in a telephone interview.

On Friday afternoon, a suicide bomber killed nine civilians near a Shiite mosque north of Baghdad, police said.

US troops killed six people and destroyed a weapons cache Friday in separate raids in Baghdad and northwest of the Iraqi capital, the US military said. One of the raids targeted two buildings in the village of Thar Thar, where US troops found 16 pounds of homemade explosives, two large bombs, a rocket-propelled grenade, suicide vests and multiple batteries, the military said.

Iraqi forces backed by US troops entered a mosque southeast of Baghdad, capturing 13 suspects and confiscating weapons, the US military said Friday.


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