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Saddam Trial Continues Despite Courtroom Drama

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 5, 2005 – Despite reported histrionics displayed today by Saddam Hussein and others during his court appearance in Baghdad, the trial goes on.

"We fully support Iraqi efforts to assemble the evidence, prepare cases against and bring Saddam and others in his brutal regime to trial for their crimes against Iraqis and others," said U.S. State Department spokesman Noel Clay.

Saddam and seven former aides are charged with murdering more than 140 Iraqis at the village of Dujail on July 8, 1982. The killings were allegedly carried out by Saddam's security forces in retaliation for an unsuccessful assassination attempt on the former dictator's life.

During his court appearance today Saddam was cited by news reports as defiantly expressing his disapproval with the trial process. Reports also described heated verbal exchanges in the courtroom between another defendant and a prosecution witness.

Reports also cited Saddam as saying today that his trial is an American-managed affair that isn't being conducted under Iraqi sovereignty.

The U.S. State Department spokesman disagreed.

"The Iraqi higher criminal court is an Iraqi-led and -managed process," Clay said.

The former dictator's trial began Oct. 19, but the judge granted a defense motion that day for more time for Saddam's defense team to prepare. The trial reconvened Nov. 28, but was rescheduled to start again today, as two members of the defense team were killed and another was wounded since Oct. 19. Clay said the Iraqi government is the primary source for security preparations for the court.

"The U.S. and other international partners will also continue to provide technical assistance and funding to the court," Clay said, "to help ensure that it has the necessary resources, assistance and training to conduct fair, transparent and effective prosecutions in accordance with the rule of law."

The U.S. Department of Justice's Regime Crimes Liaison Office has the lead for this assistance, Clay said.

Saddam's trial is slated to continue tomorrow.

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