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Iraq Holds First Executions Since Saddam Ouster

Iraq executed three convicted murderers Thursday, the first carried out here since the 2003 ouster of Saddam Hussein (search), the government announced.

"At 10 a.m. in Baghdad the first executions were carried out since the fall of the regime, against three criminals," spokesman Laith Kubba (search) said.

The government announced Aug. 17 that the three had been sentenced to death after having been convicted by a court in the Shiite city of Kut (search), 100 miles southeast of Baghdad, for killing three police officers.

The statement said they also had been found guilty of kidnapping and rape.

Kubba did not say how the three were executed but capital punishment here is carried out by hanging.

Death sentences must be approved by the three-member presidential council headed by President Jalal Talabani (search), who opposes capital punishment. Talabani refused to sign the authorization himself but his office said he had authorized one of his vice presidents, Adil Abdul-Mahdi, to do so for him.

Following the collapse of Saddam's regime, the U.S.-led occupation authority abolished capital punishment. Iraqi authorities reinstated the death penalty after the formal end of the occupation in June 2004.

Iraqi officials said at the time that capital punishment was reinstated so that Saddam could be executed if he is convicted of crimes committed by his regime during a series of trials expected to start this fall.

European Union countries have distanced themselves from legal proceedings against Saddam, refusing to provide forensic and other assistance, because they oppose capital punishment.