Thursday, June 16, 2011

Wedding massacre gang sentenced to death

Baghdad, June 16 (AKnews) – 15 of the 34 perpetrators of what has become known as the Dujail wedding massacre have been sentenced to death by hanging by Iraq's criminal court, the Judicial Council said.

Jalal Talabani
Judicial Council spokesman Abdulsalam al-Bairaqdar told AKnews that the criminal court sentenced to death 15 of the insurgents found guilty of the crime including leader -  "the terrorist Firas al-Jubbouri" -  under the terror law.

The death sentences come after Iraqi President Jalal Talabani - who has always refused to sign death warrants on moral grounds - authorized his deputy, Khudair al-Khuzaie, to sign them in his place.

Talabani is well-known for his objection to capital penalty - he famously refused to sign the warrant for the hanging of Saddam Hussein, who was responsible for the murder of thousands of his fellow Kurds and against whom he led a guerrilla war.

The President's decision to give his deputy signatory rights came after intense pressure from the political blocs and the Iraqi public to bring the perpetrators of "terror" crimes against the population to justice.

On Friday, hundreds of protestors took to the streets of Baghdad calling for the execution of Firas al-Jubbouri and his accomplices.

The worst attack the al-Qaeda affiliated group had carried out was the systematic killing of a wedding party celebrating the marriage of a Shiite man and a Sunni woman in the town of Taji, north of Baghdad, before disposing of their bodies in the Tigris river.

The murders came as confessional violence was raging throughout Iraq, with tens of thousands having died in 2006 and 2007 as a result of the brutal sectarian war.

Police said the insurgents first detonated a bomb across the road the party was travelling along, so as to force them to travel along a side street.

They separated the women, the men, and the children and raped all the women, then hung massive weights around the necks of the 15 children, who were aged between two and 12 years old, and threw them in the river to drown, according to police accounts.

The new bride was raped in front of her husband, and all the men in the wedding party were made to stand along a bridge crossing the river, with each receiving a single gunshot to the back of their head and their bodies being flung into the water with the force of the bullet.
The bride was slashed in the chest and left to bleed to death.

Baghdad witnessed demonstrations of hundreds on Friday who called for the execution of the perpetrators of the Dujail massacre.

"The council will wait for 30 days until the period of appeal is over and then the court order to execute the 15 men by hanging will be passed to the presidency of Iraq for approval," Al-Bairaqdar said.

Written by Raber Y. Aziz, reported by Jafar al-Wannan, edited by Karl Allen (AKnews)

Syria’s Kurds want Assad out, says Kurdish leader

Erbil, June 16 (AKnews) – As the anti-government protest gain momentum, Syria's Kurds are now calling for President Bashar al-Assad to step down says a prominent Kurdish party chief – a change from their previous demand of political reforms.

Kurdish Democratic Union (KDU) leader Salih Muslim said that Syria's Kurds have been calling for political and cultural rights over the past four decades – but now it's time for Assad to go.

"The demonstrations and protests in Syria continue and the demands of Kurds have gone higher as they are now calling on the Baath to leave so that the Kurds alongside the Arabs like two nations can coexist in Syria and the rights of Kurds be secured," he said.

Since March 15, nation-wide protests against the 40-year Baathist rule in Syria have continued despite a bloody crackdown by the Syrian authorities.

International human rights groups say that more than 1,300 people have been killed to date, and over 10,000 arbitrarily arrested.

Under the Baath party rule, hundreds of thousands of Syrian Kurds were stripped of their Syrian citizenship.

Against the backdrop of the snowballing public protests against his regime, the Syrian President recently pledged to re-issue Syrian nationality documents for around 300,000 of the country's Kurds.

Observers believe that Assad's promise was to deter the country's two to three million Kurds from adding fuel to the uprising.

Muslim told AKnews that the current regime in Syria had to change; the Kurds must be given their identity documents, be allowed to join the political process and be accorded a voice in reforming the constitution.

The Baath party has unilaterally ruled Syria for four decades during which time any form of political opposition has been outlawed.

The Kurds have been one of the fiercest opponents of the Syrian regime since the Baath Party took power nearly half a century ago. Headed by Bashar al-Assad's father, Hafez, in 1963, the Baathists imposed an emergency law that effectively suspended most constitutional protection for citizens.

 "Even abroad, apart from the members of the Kurdish parties, there is nobody to identify themselves as opposition except for some intellectuals and writers who defy the Syrian regime through their writings," Muslim said.

After "the fall" of the Syrian regime, the Kurds must participate in the country's political process from the presidency to the provincial councils, the Kurdish politician continued, "And they need to have their own Kurdish identity and live in a Kurdish region."

There are no accurate statistics on the numbers of Kurds in Syria, but unofficial figures suggest there are between two and three million, accounting for 10-17% of the country's population.

Written BY Raber Y. Aziz, reported by Karzan Karim, edited by Karl Allen (AKnews)

16/06/2011 11:00