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3 hanged as Iraq resumes death penalty enforcement

BAGHDAD -- The transitional Iraqi government executed three convicted murderers yesterday morning in the first application of the death penalty since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime.

Bayan Ahmed Said, Uday Dawood Salman, and Dhahar Jasim Hassan were hanged yesterday morning in Baghdad, Laith Kubba, a government spokesman, told reporters. He did not disclose their ages.

The men were found guilty of murder, rape, and kidnapping in southeastern Iraq. Proponents of Iraq's government hailed the executions as a message to criminals throughout Iraq and a comfort for the victims' relatives.

''Let those terrorists know that there will be decisive laws waiting to punish them if they try to kill innocent Iraqis," said Abbas Bayati, a Shi'ite legislator. ''The hearts of many families who had their loved ones killed for no reason will be healed today."

European governments had hoped Iraq would abolish the death penalty, which many countries view as a violation of human rights.

Executions, mostly of political opponents, were common under Hussein.

Death-penalty opponents suggested the hangings would hurt US efforts to garner international support for the nascent Iraqi government.

''It's going to be a problem for our allies when a US-supported government in Iraq executes people," said David Elliot, spokesman for the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, a Washington-based organization.

Some Iraqis questioned Iraq's legal system, which they said lacked the transparency to guard against abuse and may not be capable of determining guilt or innocence beyond doubt.

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