BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Many Iraqis said on Wednesday they would welcome a swift execution of Saddam Hussein but others expressed fears that carrying out the death sentence now would further fuel sectarian violence.
An Iraqi appeals court on Tuesday upheld Saddam’s death sentence for crimes against humanity and said he should hang within 30 days. It comes amid raging violence between Saddam’s fellow Sunni Arabs and majority Shi’ites.
“This is a just sentence because Saddam oppressed the Iraqi people but I think it came at the wrong time because we’re living through a cycle of violence,” said Baghdad resident Mohammed Nasir.
Edward Iskander, a 37-year-old shopkeeper, agreed.
“I just hope they let him die naturally because if we execute him, his followers will unleash mayhem,” Iskander said as he opened his small food store in central Baghdad’s Karrada district.
Some people fear Saddam’s die-hard followers, who form part of the Sunni Arab insurgency, will produce a bloody backlash if he is executed. But others say his death will end their hopes and their fight.
“I think his death will end violence from Sunnis and they’ll be forced to negotiate for reconciliation. We desperately need to turn this page in history,” said Akram Salman, a 21-year-old mathematics university student.
Shi’ites and Kurds, Saddam’s main victims during his 24-year rule, have been keen to speed up the execution but some minority Sunni Arabs, who had been the ruling elite for decades, are nostalgic for his return.
There were no major celebrations or protests against the decision as many Iraqis, struggling to live through sectarian violence and shortages in basic services, had expected the November 5 death sentence to be upheld.
Iraqi newspapers squeezed in headlines and small articles on the announcement late on Tuesday by the head of the Iraqi High Tribunal, Aref Abdul-Razzaq al-Shahin, but no editorials focused on the decision.
It remains unclear when Saddam will be executed for his role in the killings of 148 Shi’ite villagers after a failed 1982 assassination attempt against him in the village of Dujail, but al-Shahin said the sentence must be carried out within 30 days.
Although many Iraqis anxiously wait to see if it may help ease violence or improve their lives, laundry owner Yusif Ali said he just wanted to enjoy the moment when it comes.
“I’m very happy that justice was finally done,” Ali said. “All I ask the government is for a broadcast of his execution.”