Baghdad, Iraq The chief prosecutor asked an Iraqi judge Monday to put deposed dictator Saddam Hussein to death for crimes against humanity, capping off months of grim testimony over the alleged 1982 massacre of Shiite Muslim villagers.
Lead prosecutor Jaafar al-Moussawi also urged death for two of Saddam's fellow defendants: Barzan Ibrahim, a half-brother to the ex-leader and Iraq's onetime intelligence chief, and former Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan.
"The prosecutor general requests from the court to issue the most severe punishment against them," al-Moussawi told the judge in his closing arguments. "They did not have mercy on either the elderly or the children."
The prosecutor also urged that Awad al-Bandar, the former head of a Hussein's Revolutionary Court who doled out death sentences against the villagers, be punished for their murders. But he did not specifically call for the death penalty.
Saddam and seven co-defendants were charged with carrying out a sweeping campaign of arbitrary arrest, torture, forced deportation and killings against the people of Dujail, a predominantly Shiite village where the former president survived an attempt on his life in 1982. Prosecutors describe a witch hunt that culminated with 148 people, including elderly residents and scores of children, being put to death without fair trials.
The prosecutor asked the judge to dismiss charges or "minimize the punishment" in the cases of four lesser defendants. All were local officials at the time of the assassination attempt, and were described in testimony as relatively powerless figures with little choice but to follow orders from Baghdad.
The case is the first in a series of trials against the former dictator and his deputies. The Dujail trial, which opened last fall, is set to reconvene on July 10 with closing arguments by the defense. The next case will examine charges that Saddam ordered thousands of Kurds killed in Anfal with mustard gas.
¢ As of Monday, at least 2,503 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
¢ The U.S. Army charged three soldiers in connection with the deaths of three Iraqis during an operation in northern Salahuddin province on May 9. The three are members of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division.
¢ Italian prosecutors requested the indictment of a U.S. soldier in the fatal shooting of an Italian intelligence agent at a checkpoint in Baghdad last year.
¢ The U.S. military fired on suspected militants from an AC-130 gunship above the insurgent stronghold of Ramadi while hundreds of U.S. and Iraqi troops punch into an eastern section of the violent city. The operation is the latest by the combined force to strengthen its presence in neighborhoods that have been no-go zones controlled by the Sunni-led insurgency.
¢ Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Iraqi forces will take over security next month in southern Muthana province where Japanese troops are based.
¢ Five hundred detainees were released from U.S.-run detention centers in Iraq, part of al-Maliki's plan to release 2,500 prisoners to promote national reconciliation.