Introduction on DemocracyNow:
An Iraqi court 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. We speak with Scott Horton (ed: the other one), the Chairman of the International Law Committee and a member of the Iraqi Bar Association.[snippage re saddam]
AMY GOODMAN: Scott Horton, I wanted to go back to another story, one that we have covered that hasn’t gotten a lot of attention: Mohammad Munaf. He is the Iraqi American who has just been sentenced to death also. Can you talk about his case?
SCOTT HORTON: Well, I was astounded by that, when I first heard a report about it. And I picked up the phone and I spoke with two -- I knew, actually, the two Iraqi attorneys who were involved, representing him in that case. The Brennan Center here in New York was also involved. So I spoke with the defense counsel. I also spoke with a bailiff at the court about it, to find out what had happened in this proceeding. And what they all described -- in fact, completely they all had exactly the same account of what happened -- was shocking.
They say that he was brought into the courtroom, Mr. Munaf, by two American officers -- one they described as, quote, “the general;” the other they described as a man named Lieutenant Pirone. He was brought before the court. The court had announced, prior to session, that reviewing the evidence of the case, he had concluded that he would dismiss the charges, that there were no substantial charges, and that at this hearing, that would be a conclusion to the affair, there would be a dismissal.
AMY GOODMAN: And this was the case of an Iraqi American who had accompanied three Romanian journalists --
SCOTT HORTON: Who were kidnapped.
AMY GOODMAN: -- who were all kidnapped, including him.
SCOTT HORTON: That’s correct. And then, the account is that this American lieutenant stood up, began arguing very loudly with the judge, saying it was unacceptable that this man be dismissed, that he had to be convicted, and moreover that he had to receive the death sentence. And the American whipped out a piece of paper saying he was there speaking on behalf of the government of Romania and the government of Romania demanded the death sentence.
Afterwards, there was a private discussion, I’m told, between the Americans and the judge. The judge emerged from this ashen-faced, looking very upset, and then proceeded immediately to convict the man and sentence him to death.
And subsequently, the government of Romania reacted, saying they knew nothing about this proceeding and they certainly did not authorize an American officer to stand up in the court and demand the death sentence. In fact, the government of Romania does not endorse the death sentence. So there’s something very strange going on about this case.
And the application was made to the district court in Washington, D.C., to get a freezing order, an injunction against this American, who is being held by the United States, by the way, in Iraq, being held by U.S. forces in Iraq, to preclude his being turned over to the Iraqi authorities. That was denied by the district court. It was denied by the court of appeals, on the basis, remember, of the Military Commissions Act, which essentially has gutted the writ of habeas corpus. So we have an American citizen who may be, in fact, executed in Iraq at the insistence of the American military without any ability of the U.S. courts to intervene and provide justice in the case -- without a trial, I have to stress that.
AMY GOODMAN: Why do you think the U.S. military wants Munaf dead?
SCOTT HORTON: I have no idea.