An Iraqi special tribunal today convicted Saddam Hussein of crimes against humanity and sentenced him to death by hanging for the brutal repression of a Shiite town in the 1980’s.
As the chief judge read aloud the verdict, a defiant Mr. Hussein shouted, “Long live the people! Long live the Arab nation! Down with the spies!” He thrust his finger emphatically into the air as he spoke, then repeatedly chanted, “God is great!”
The judge, Raouf Rasheed Abdul Rahman, tried to calm Mr. Hussein down. “There’s no point,” Mr. Rahman told him.
The verdict, under Iraqi law, will immediately be submitted to an appellate court, which will begin its review within a month, officials said.
Still, today’s verdict represented a moment of triumph and catharsis for many Iraqis after decades of suffering under Mr. Hussein’s tyrannical rule.
Spontaneous celebrations broke out across Iraq in spite of an around-the-clock curfew imposed on the capital and other regions. People fired pistols and assault rifles into the air in a common gesture of jubilation. Residents of Sadr City, a Shiite bastion in northeastern Baghdad, flooded the streets in defiance of a curfew, whooping and dancing and sounding car horns. Even some Shiite police officers joined in the revelry, firing their weapons in the air.
. . . .
The long-awaited verdict today came nearly three years after Mr. Hussein was hauled from an underground hideaway by American troops and more than a year after he and seven co-defendants first appeared in an Iraqi court to face charges of orchestrating what the prosecution called a “widespread and systematic persecution” of the townspeople of Dujail, 35 miles north of Baghdad.