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Home >> World
UPDATED: 13:42, August 11, 2005
Iraq gets ready for Saddam trial
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Many Iraqis would cheerfully see Saddam Hussein severely punished, but the new Iraqi Government does not want to earn a reputation for itself of dispensing with judicial process.

The Iraqi Special Tribunal has heard around 7,000 witnesses and evaluated 2 million documents over recent months, and the former leader's trial is thought likely to begin within weeks.

The charge list is a long one. He is alleged to have entrenched himself in power through the mass murder of his own people.

The prosecution intends to open its case with events that happened more than 20 years ago, when a group of men from the Shi'ite village of Dujail north of Baghdad opened fire on a convoy carrying the then president.

Several guards died, but Saddam was uninjured. He gave vent to his rage by having around 140 of the village's men executed.

Almost 1,000 women and children were detained and tortured. In addition, Saddam's henchmen destroyed houses and laid waste the fields.

The Dujail case is seen as soundly based in law. Apparently there is a 1982 decree dated and signed by Saddam ordering the executions.

In other cases it might not be so easy to prove Saddam's guilt.

The prosecution aims to concentrate on around a dozen cases, leading evidence on each in succession.

Among them is the 1988 poison gas attack on the Kurdish town of Halabja, the 1990 invasion of Kuwait and the suppression in 1991 of the Shi'ite uprising that took place in the aftermath of the first Gulf War.

The tribunal was set up under the US occupation and uses the services of a number of US legal personnel.

Critics have called for the trial to take place under the auspices of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which was set up for precisely this kind of case.

There are fears that the start of the trial will be marked by a renewed wave of violence in Iraq. Many Sunnis still back Saddam and could feel humiliated at seeing him in the dock.

Family fire all but one lawyer

Saddam's own family is in dispute with the more than 1,500 international lawyers who have indicated an interest in defending the former Iraqi president.

Some of these lawyers have spoken in the name of the former leader without ever having spoken to him.

Al-Hayat newspaper reported on Tuesday that the family of Saddam has fired all but one of the lawyers who had volunteered for his defence citing conflict of interest.

The newspaper, quoting sources close to the family, said Iraqi lawyer Khalil al-Duleimi is Saddam's sole legal representative "because he is the only one who has a written and direct consent from Saddam."

"The decision was announced by Raghad Saddam Hussein (eldest daughter) following her return to Amman from a six-day visit to an unknown destination," al-Hayat said.

The decision was made following "doubts and suspicion of financial arrangements of some of the lawyers in addition to some seeking fame through the media at the expense of the legal procedures."

Al-Hayat said Saddam's family has also made a decision to appoint Iraqi legal consultant Abdel Haq al-Aali, who holds a British passport.

"The new arrangements will end the chaos of media statements made on behalf of Saddam Hussein inside and outside Iraq and reorganize the case back to its right legal course," al-Hayat quoted the sources as saying.

A member of the Amman-based defence committee, Issam al-Ghazzawi, said the family's decision may be linked to the number of public declarations by various lawyers about Saddam's case.

"Defence committee members do not have the mandate to plead Saddam's case in court, but will offer legal advice and support, nothing more," he added.

Formally charged in Dujail case

Meanwhile, Tariq Aziz, Iraq's former deputy prime minister, denied on Tuesday that he might testify against the former president.

In an effort to quash speculation that the man who was Saddam's envoy to the outside world might turn star witness for the prosecution, Aziz delivered a statement through his lawyer.

"I would like to make clear ... that I will not testify against anyone and, in particular, I will not testify against Saddam Hussein," attorney Badia Aref quoted Aziz saying in a note he passed the lawyer during a meeting earlier in the day.

So far, in one case, Saddam has been formally charged with the killing of dozens of Shi'ite Muslims from the village of Dujail in 1982. If he is found guilty, he faces the death penalty. An Iraqi judge said on Monday the trial was expected to begin in two months.

Dujail is seen as a relatively minor case among the many accusations of genocide and crimes against humanity levelled at the ousted president and his senior advisers.

But prosecutors hope it will be easier to secure a conviction in a smaller case.

But guilty verdict in the Dujail case would probably result in a death sentence. That would satisfy many Iraqis, but the risk is that many other crimes would not be subject to judicial process in open court.

Saddam is awaiting trial at a US-run high-security camp on the outskirts of Baghdad. He has appeared before Iraq's war crimes tribunal along with several aides, including Aziz.

Source: China Daily

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