Under Iraqi law, death sentences are automatically go to appeal before a higher court within 10 days of their passage. But defence lawyers must file a formal appeal within 30 days, detailing the legal grounds for their action and presenting new evidence that could support their clients' claims of innocence. The lawyers could also make a plea for leniency.

 

Raid Juhi, Iraqi High Tribunal spokesman, said: "Today, defence lawyers came to the court and filed an appeal against the death sentence passed against Saddam Hussein and other sentences in the Dujail case." 

 

Khalil al-Dulaimi, Saddam's Hussein's chief lawyer, said two lawyers on the team had submitted the papers. He complained that the defence had not received copies of the verdict until November 23, delaying the process.

 

"Finally we were able to do it," al-Dulaimi said. "We had to hastily prepare the appeal because the court procrastinated in giving us the documents necessary for the submission in a bid to obstruct the appeal process."

 

Barzan Ibrahim, Saddam's half brother and intelligence chief during the Dujail killings, was sentenced to join the former leader on the gallows, as was Awad Hamed al-Bandar, head of Iraq's Revolutionary Court, which issued the death sentences against the Dujail residents.

 

Taha Yassin Ramadan, Iraq's former vice-president, was convicted of pre-meditated murder and sentenced to life in prison.

 

Three defendants were given up to 15 years in prison for torture and premeditated murder. Abdullah Kazim Ruwayyid and his son, Mizhar Abdullah Ruwayyid, were ruling Baath party officials in Dujail, along with Ali Dayih Ali. They were believed to be responsible for the Dujail arrests.

 

Another local Baath party official, Mohammed Azawi Ali, was acquitted for lack of evidence.

 

Time limit

 

The nine-judge higher court does not have a time limit for ruling on the appeal. But the death sentences passed against Saddam, Ibrahim and al-Bandar must be carried out within a maximum of 30 days from the day they are upheld by the higher court.

 

Jaafar Moussawi, the chief prosecutor in the Dujail case, said in November that the trio could be hanged by the middle of January.

 

Saddam is being tried separately on charges of genocide linked to a military campaign in the 1980s against Iraq's minority Kurds in which tens of thousands of people are thought to have been killed. If convicted, the former leader could receive a second death sentence.