Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein reacts as the verdict is delivered Sunday during his trial, held under tight security in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone.
Saddam Hussein has been sentenced to death for crimes against humanity. Reactions to the verdict illustrate the sectarian divisions that have become so familiar in Iraq, with celebrations erupting in Shiite and Kurdish areas while some Sunni neighborhoods turned to violent protest.
Though the Bush administration denies interfering with the trial, the verdict was read only two days before the U.S. election, leading some to believe the timing was politically motivated.
In the streets of Dujail, a Tigris River city of 84,000, people celebrated and burned pictures of their former tormentor as the verdict was read. In Baghdad, the Shiite bastion of Sadr City exploded in jubilation.
But in Saddam’s hometown of Tikrit, not far from Dujail, 1,000 people defied the curfew and carried pictures of the city’s favorite son through the streets. Some declared the court a product of the U.S. “occupation forces” and condemned the verdict. Policemen wept in the streets.
“By our souls, by our blood we sacrifice for you, Saddam,” the Tikrit crowds chanted.
A trial envisioned to heal Iraq’s deep ethnic and sectarian wounds appeared rather to have deepened the fissures.
“This government will be responsible for the consequences, with the deaths of hundreds, thousands or even hundreds of thousands, whose blood will be shed,” Salih al-Mutlaq, a Sunni political leader, told Al-Arabiya satellite television.