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Saddam defense team formally appeals Dujail death verdict

[JURIST] The defense team for Saddam Hussein Sunday formally appealed his death sentence [JURIST report; JURIST news archive] for crimes against humanity committed in the town of Dujail in 1982. The November 5 condemnation to death by hanging was automatically appealable to a nine-judge Appeals Chamber set up under the statute of the Iraqi High Tribunal [text, PDF]. Article 27 of the statute says that penalties are to be carried out within thirty days of sentence, in effect requiring before then a defense statement laying out the legal grounds for any challenge as well as new evidence of innocence and a possible plea of leniency. Saddam chief counsel Khalil al-Dulaimi reiterated past accusations [JURIST report] that the court had "deliberately and intentionally wasted and exhausted" the efforts of the defense team by withholding an official copy of the verdicts until November 23. Dulaimi, who also appealed the death sentences of co-defendants Awad Hamed al-Bandar and Barzan al-Tikriti, complained that the appeals had to be hastily prepared to avoid next Tuesday's deadline. AP has more.

International rights groups have also decried the trial proceedings as biased. Last week a group of five United Nations human rights experts cited the trial as flawed [JURIST report] and urged the Iraqi government to refrain from carrying out Saddam's execution, pointing in part to the lack of an independent and impartial tribunal and the lack of adequate time to prepare his defense. The group has suggested that the governments of Iraq and the US consider a retrial of the former dictator before an international panel. A November 20 Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] report [text; JURIST report] called the trial "fundamentally unfair." An appeals panel decision is expected by mid-January 2007 [JURIST report]; if upheld, Article 27 requires the verdict to be carried out within a further 30 days.

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