Saddam Could be Executed after First Trial

Saddam Hussein faces the death penalty in his current trial, which could mean that he would be executed before all of his subsequent trials are carried out.

Saddam could be executed after first trial (AP)

Saddam Hussein could be executed after his first trial if he is convicted and sentenced to death for his alleged role in a 1982 Shiite massacre, even though he faces other charges, an official close to the proceedings said Thursday. The first trial, which involves the deposed Iraqi ruler’s alleged role in the 1982 massacre of an estimated 150 Shiites in Dujail, north of Baghdad, is expected to begin by the fall, said the official. He briefed reporters on condition that his name would not be used for reasons of security and the sensitivity of the case.

Saddam’s daughter, meanwhile, has threatened that the ousted leader’s defense lawyer could boycott the trial — and preliminary questioning — unless the defense gets better access to Saddam. The defense has complained in the past that it has only been allowed to meet Sadddam with U.S. or Iraqi military officials watching.

Iraqi authorities also are building about a dozen other cases against Saddam that they intend to try separately. Those cases include the killing of rival politicians over 30 years, the 1987-88 Anfal campaign that left tens of thousands of Kurds dead or displaced and the crushing of a 1991 uprising by Shiites following the Gulf War.

If Saddam is sentenced to death in the Dujail case, authorities could “theoretically” carry out the sentence without waiting for the other trials to begin, the official said. “If the sentence were to be the death penalty, I think that the court will have to make a decision based on international principles, Iraqi law, whether or not there is need for him in another case for the prosecution or another defendant,” the official said. “It’s possible but it’s going depend on the circumstances when it happens, what other cases are going on,” he added.

It would be a shame if he weren’t around for the other trials, which might have some cathartic effect.

Still, it’s rather problematic that the prosecution has decided to separate this into a multitude of separate trials, anyway, since they’re all part of the same “spree,” as it were. In the theoretical case of an actually innocent defendent, it would be a gross abuse of state power to keep someone in jail for trial after trial; even if he were acquitted in all of them, the defendant would face years in prison.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.