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THE CONFLICT IN IRAQ: CONGRESS CONSIDERS TIMELINE;
HUSSEIN DEPUTY EXECUTED

Former VP to Hussein hanged

Rights groups protested the death sentence, saying his role in a 1982 massacre was minor.

March 20, 2007|Christian Berthelsen | Times Staff Writer

BAGHDAD — Saddam Hussein's former vice president was hanged before dawn today, a senior Iraqi official said, despite the objections of human rights groups that said the evidence was weak and the sentence unfair.

Taha Yassin Ramadan was convicted in November with six others, including Hussein, for his role in the 1982 massacre of 148 Shiite Muslims from the town of Dujayl, north of Baghdad, after an assassination attempt on the former president. The trial court that sentenced Hussein 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.

Bassam Ridha, a legal advisor to Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, said the hanging was not plagued by the problems that marred the executions of Hussein and his half brother, which outraged Iraqis. The judge, the prosecutor and the defense lawyer witnessed the execution, and Ramadan's body was to be delivered to his family, Ridha said.

Despite being a senior official under Hussein, Ramadan was a relatively minor figure in the trial. The accusations against him largely centered on his order to bulldoze orchards and fields in the Dujayl area, and evidence was presented about his participation in meetings with other leaders more culpable in the massacre. Ramadan was also the commander of a militia that was involved in rounding up villagers to be killed.

Human rights groups and some government organizations, including an arm of the United Nations, have said that the conviction was the result of guilt by association and that the evidence supported conviction only on lesser crimes, such as unlawful imprisonment and inhumane acts.

They opposed the execution, saying that the Iraqi judiciary lacked independence from political influence during the trial and that due process normally afforded to defendants elsewhere was not practiced.

"The trial was riddled with flaws and didn't meet international standards," said Sara Dareshori, senior counsel with Human Rights Watch.

Executions of former regime members have been problematic for the government. Hussein's was videotaped by cellphone and posted on the Internet. The video showed him being heckled by witnesses in the final moments of his life. His half brother was decapitated during his hanging.

"Everything in Iraq is logical," said Essam Ghazzawi, one of the defense lawyers in the trial. "Killing innocent children is logical. Everything is turned upside down in Iraq, so everything can be expected."

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christian.berthelsen@latimes.com

Times staff writer Saif Hameed contributed to this report.

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