Baghdad: An Iraqi court on Thursday sentenced 15 alleged al Qaeda members to death for their role in the 2006 wedding party massacre of 70 people, considered one of the most horrific attacks carried out by Sunni-led militants during the insurgency.
The defendants were convicted of planning and carrying out the attack in the mainly Shiite town of Dujail, Iraqi Supreme Judicial Council spokesman Abdul-Sattar Bayrkdar said.
Dujail is located 50 miles north of Baghdad and is surrounded by Sunni areas that were under the thumb of al-Qaida operatives at that time.
Since the defendants’ arrest last month, Iraqi state TV has been airing the defendants’ confessions in what is seen as an attempt by the embattled Shiite Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki to show that he is protecting the country.
“The court completed today all its procedures properly,” Bayrkdar told a news agency in a phone interview after the half-day trial.
“It was open for public and the convicted had the chance to talk land enter their plea,” he added.
A number of international human rights organisations have been questioning whether the proceedings of Iraqi courts comply with international standards for fairness. The 15 have a month to appeal the death sentences.