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Iraqi gov’t switches off channels

Two Sunni TV stations shut down

The death sentence in the Saddam Hussein trial has had an immediate effect on the TV biz in Iraq.

The Iraqi government shuttered two Sunni Muslim TV channels on Sunday for allegedly inciting sectarian violence.

Al-Zawraa, owned by Sunni former MP Mishaan Al-Jabouri, and Salahuddin, which broadcasts out of Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit, were shut down shortly after the announcement that the former Iraqi president had been sentenced to hang.

Brigadier General Abdul-Karim Khalaf, the Interior Ministry spokesman, said that the stations violated a curfew imposed in three provinces by speaking to people in the streets and airing comments that were deemed to “incite violence.”

Leader of the small Sunni Arab Front for Reconciliation and Liberation, Al-Jabouri had his parliamentary immunity stripped last month after he was accused of embezzling funds intended for an armed force protecting oil pipelines in northern Iraq.

Speaking from the Syrian capital of Damascus, where he lives, Al-Jabouri echoed his TV station’s criticism of Hussein’s death sentence for the 1982 killings of 148 people in the Shiite town of Dujail.

“If Saddam had ordered the killing of some hundreds of Iraqi people, the current officials in Baghdad deserve 1,000 death sentences because they cause the daily killing of more than those killed by Saddam,” he said.

The Iraq government has increasingly sought to curb TV channels operating in the country.

In July, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki warned TV stations against broadcasting video that could undermine Iraq’s stability.

The government closed Al-Jazeera’s Baghdad news office in August 2004, accusing it of inciting violence. The office is still closed, but the station operates in the Kurdish-ruled area of the north.

Rival newscaster Al-Arabiya had its Baghdad operations shut down for a month in September.

(Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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