First legal executions in Iraq

Iraq executed three murderers Thursday, the first legal executions carried out here since the 2003 ouster of Saddam Hussein, the government spokesman 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 told reporters.

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, 160 kilometers (100 miles) southeast of Baghdad, for killing three police officers, the AP informs.

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.

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.

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

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