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An Iraqi court has sentenced Saddam Hussein to death by hanging for committing crimes against humanity. The decision was announced on Sunday, just two days before the U.S. mid-term elections. As chief judge Raouf Abdul Rahman announced the ruling, the former Iraqi president cut him off and declared "Long live Iraq."
Two other senior aides, including Saddam Hussein’s half-brother Barzan al-Tikriti were also sentenced to death. His former vice-president was sentenced to life and three minor Baath party officials received long prison sentences. The five-judge court found Saddam Hussein guilty of executing 148 Shiite men and boys from the town of Dujail in 1982. The killings occurred a year before Donald Rumsfeld shook hands with Saddam Hussein in Baghdad. To prevent an outbreak of violence, Baghdad and four provinces have been under a curfew for the past two days. Amnesty International criticized the court proceedings saying it failed to meet the standards of a fair trial. One of Saddam Hussein’s attorneys, former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, described the proceedings as a mockery of justice. Clark was thrown out of the court on Sunday for handing a note to the judge criticizing the trial. Meanwhile, the European Union is urging Iraq not to carry out the death sentence. The EU opposes capital punishment in all cases. President Bush praised the court’s decision.
Leading Democrats questioned whether the court’s decision would make a difference on the ground in Iraq.
In Mexico, hundreds of thousands of protesters marched in the city of Oaxaca on Sunday calling for the resignation of governor Ulises Ruiz and for federal police to leave the city. Supporters came from throughout Mexico including a caravan of over 100 cars, trucks and buses from Mexico City. The protest came eight days after Mexican President Vicente Fox sent thousands of federal police officers into the city to crush the popular uprising in Oaxaca. But the police have been unable to take control of more than the city square. Meanwhile on Sunday morning gunmen opened fire on a student protester outside the university radio station. The 22-year-old Marcos Sanchez Martinez was reported to be in critical condition.
In other news from Mexico, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has announced the formation of his resistance Cabinet. The former presidential candidate said the cabinet would serve as a counter-weight to President-elect Felipe Calderon who will be inaugurated on December 1. Calderon is scheduled to meet with President Bush at the White House on Thursday. Lopez Obrador also voiced his support for the protesters in Oaxaca. Lopez Obrador: "I reiterate, the federal police needs to desist from its repression and leave Oaxaca. The solution to this conflict must also include new elections."
A 16-year-old Palestinian boy has died in the latest Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip. Over 50 Palestinians have died over the past six days. On Saturday an Israeli sniper shot dead a 12-year-old girl. On Friday Israeli troops killed two volunteer paramedics with the Palestinian ambulance service. They were both 17 years old. The International Red Cross said it was appalled by Israel’s failure to protect personnel engaged in emergency medical duties. Israel has vowed to continue its offensive that it claims is needed to stop Palestinian rocket attacks on Israeli towns. Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh accused Israel of committing genocide.
The Finnish presidency of the European Union warned against the "disproportionate use of violence". Pope Benedict XVI appealed for a halt to the bloodshed.
In Nicaragua, early results from Sunday’s presidential election show Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega might have won enough support to avoid a run-off. With returns in from almost 15 percent of polling stations, Ortega had just above the 40 percent mark that would seal a first-round win. His chief rival, the conservative Eduardo Montealegre, has refused to concede defeat.
As many 25,000 people rallied in London on Saturday to mark the International Day of Climate Action. The march began with a rally at the US Embassy. Protestors carried banners reading "George Bush wanted for crimes against the planet." Meanwhile in Kenya, over 6,000 delegates have gathered for a new round of UN talks on climate change. On Sunday the United Nations warned that global warming could devastate the continent of Africa. A new UN report found that seventy million people could face risks of coastal flooding within 75 years linked to rising seas. More than a quarter of African wildlife habitats also risked destruction. Kenya’s Environment Minister Kivutha Kibwana told delegates "Climate change is rapidly emerging as one of the most serious threats that humanity may ever face."
In other environmental news, a new study in Science Magazine is warning the world could be without edible fish in just over 40 years. The study found that fish stocks have collapsed in nearly one-third of sea fisheries, and the rate of decline is accelerating.
The editors of the nation’s four main military newspapers have called for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to resign. The editorial appears today in the Army Times, Navy Times, Air Force Times and Marine Corps Times. The editorial states "It is one thing for the majority of Americans to think Rumsfeld has failed. But when the nation’s current military leaders start to break publicly with their defense secretary, then it is clear that he is losing control of the institution he ostensibly leads." The editorial goes on to say "Rumsfeld has lost credibility with the uniformed leadership, with the troops, with Congress and with the public at large. His strategy has failed." The Army Times and the others papers are civilian owned but distributed to troops across the globe.
Meanwhile Vanity Fair is reporting a number of prominent neoconservatives who advocated for the invasion of Iraq are now criticizing President Bush’s handling of the war. The list includes former Pentagon advisers Richard Perle and Kenneth Adelman; former Presidential speechwriter David Frum; and Michael Rubin, a former senior official in the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans. Richard Perle admitted that huge mistakes were made in Iraq. Perle criticized Vanity Fair because he claimed he had been promised that his remarks would not be published until after the mid-term election.
The Washington Post is reporting that the Bush administration has told a federal judge that prisoners once held in secret CIA jail should never be allowed to reveal to their civilian attorney details of how they were interrogated. The government says in new court filings that those interrogation methods are among the nation’s most sensitive national security secrets and that their release could cause extremely grave damage. Gitanjali Gutierrez, an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights said the government is trying to conceal illegal or embarrassing executive conduct. Northwestern University law professor Joseph Margulies said that this means prisoners would be barred from even saying what the government did to them to elicit the statements that are the basis for them being held. Margulies said "Kafka-esque doesn’t do it justice. This is 'Alice in Wonderland.'"
In Afghanistan, the Italian photojournalist Gabriele Torsello has been released three weeks after he was kidnapped.
On Sunday Gabriele Torsello was reunited with his family in Italy
And the Christian evangelical leader Ted Haggard admitted on Sunday to being a deceiver and liar who had committed sexually immoral conduct. Up until last week Haggard was the president of the National Association of Evangelicals. But the minister was forced to resign after a male prostitute in Denver revealed that Haggard had regularly visited his apartment for the past three years for sex and drugs. Haggard at first denied the allegations. He wrote a letter to his congregation admitting that he had sinned. His letter was read by the Rev. Larry Stockstill, from the pulpit on Sunday. The letter read, "The fact is, I am guilty of sexually immoral conduct. I am a deceiver and a liar. There is a side of me so repulsive and dark that I have been warring against it most of my adult life."