In a phone interview with Al Jazeera, Salih al-Mutlaq, the head of the Iraqi Front for National Dialogue, blasted the trial proceedings as farcical and predicted that the government of Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, would be unseated soon.
 
He said: "The Maliki government diffused the security crisis in Iraq by adding oil to the fire."

He criticized the government for calling on people to celebrate before the verdict was announced.

He said: "The new government put the last nail in the bier of the Iraq amnesty project."

In Hiyt, 180 km west of Baghdad, hundreds of Iraqis fired their AK-47s in the air as a form of protest while others admitted to being shocked.

Worst day

Ammar Hameed, a Hiyt lawyer, said: "It's the worst day in all my life.

"I was hopping that there will be some postponement to the sentence against Saddam. I am so afraid that it's just the beginning of a new stage of violence in the country."

Hameed said that hopes for a unified Iraq had now been dashed.

But Jamal Jumaa, a teacher in Hiyt, believes Saddam should have stayed in the custody of US forces.

He said: "They [the US] have no death penalty against politicians inside the United States or more of the European states, as well as all the civilized world refused the punishment of death as they did in the European Union."

He believes there is little difference between Saddam's reign and the new post-war government which he says is on a killing spree.

In Ramadi, the capital of Anbar that is besieged by daily attacks on US and Iraqi government forces, Muimin Ahmed, a merchant, believes the sentence handed down is designed to end violence in Iraq but will ultimately fail.
 
He said: "They want to kill the role of the Iraq resistance by issuing this sentence."

Dark political period
  
Many Iraqis in Anbar believe the end of Saddam signals the end of a dark and disturbing period in Iraq's political history.

Others believe regional and world powers influenced the court's decision unfairly.

Khaled Ibraheem, a civil engineer from Hiyt, said: "The Iraqi government should have postponed this issue until the departure of the coalition forces from the country."
 
But all Iraqis interviewed believed that violence in the country would likely increase in the foreseeable future.