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Monday, January 08, 2007

Saddam’s trial resumes after hanging - Conflict in Iraq - MSNBC.com

Saddam’s trial resumes after hanging - Conflict in Iraq - MSNBC.com

Saddam’s trial resumes after hanging
Court drops charges against ex-leader; 6 co-defendants still face conviction
The Associated Press
Updated: 5:02 a.m. ET Jan 8, 2007

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Saddam Hussein’s trial for the killing of 180,000 Kurds in the 1980s resumed Monday with the late dictator’s seat empty, nine days after he went to the gallows. The court’s first order of business was to drop all charges against Saddam.

Six co-defendants still face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity stemming from a military campaign code-named Operation Anfal during the 1980-88 Iraq-Iran war.

Shortly after the court reconvened Monday, a bailiff called out the names of the accused and the six men walked silently into the courtroom one after another.

Chief Judge Mohammed Oreibi al-Khalifa said the court decided to stop all legal action against the former president, since “the death of defendant Saddam was confirmed.”

All seven defendants in the Anfal case, including Saddam, had pleaded innocent to charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Saddam and one other man also pleaded innocent to the additional charge of genocide.

Saddam was sentenced to death for the killing of 148 Shiites and hanged on Dec. 30 in a chaotic execution that has drawn global criticism for the Shiite-dominated government. An illicit video from inside the former leader’s execution chamber showed him being taunted on the gallows.

'Completely wrong'
British Prime Minister Tony Blair believed the manner in which Saddam was executed was “completely wrong,” his office said Sunday.

“He believes that the manner of the execution was completely wrong, but that should not lead us to forget the crimes that Saddam Hussein committed, including the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis,” a spokeswoman for Blair’s office said on condition of anonymity in line with policy.

Human Rights Watch said Saddam’s speedy execution illustrated the Iraqi government’s disregard for human rights, and urged Iraqi officials to halt two upcoming hangings.

“The tribunal repeatedly showed its disregard for the fundamental due process rights of all of the defendants,” said Richard Dicker, director of Human Rights Watch’s International Justice Program.

Saddam’s half brother and former intelligence chief, Barzan Ibrahim, and former head of Iraq’s Revolutionary Court, Awad Hamed al-Bandar, were sentenced to death after being found guilty along with Saddam of involvement in the killings in the town of Dujail after a 1982 assassination attempt there against Saddam.

Their executions were postponed, however, until after the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, which ended six days ago. They were expected in the coming days, though Jaafar al-Mousawi, the chief prosecutor in the separate Dujail case, said the timing would “be determined by the government.”

Sami al-Askari, an adviser to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, declined to give reasons for the delay and said only that “no date has been made yet” for al-Bandar and Ibrahim’s hangings.

Judge cuts off defendant
The six remaining defendants in the Anfal case — all senior members of Saddam’s ousted regime — include his cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as “Chemical Ali” for his alleged use of chemical weapons against Iraqi Kurds.

As al-Majid took his seat in court Monday, he tried to turn on his microphone to speak publicly. The judge quickly shut it off, preventing him from being heard.

The other defendants are former Defense Minister Sultan Hashim al-Tai, who was the commander of Task Force Anfal and head of the Iraqi army 1st Corps; Sabir al-Douri, Saddam’s military intelligence chief; Taher Tawfiq al-Ani, former governor of Mosul and head of the Northern Affairs Committee; Hussein Rashid Mohammed, former deputy director of operations for the Iraqi Armed Forces and Farhan Mutlaq Saleh, former head of military intelligence’s eastern regional office.

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