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Saddam's Trial Features 'Minimal' U.S. Involvement

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 25, 2006 – U.S. involvement with Saddam Hussein's sometimes noisy, protracted trial in Baghdad "is minimal," a senior Defense Department spokesman said here today.

"The court proceedings are all Iraqi-government run (and) handled," Bryan Whitman told reporters at the Pentagon, noting that the U.S. military is involved with some aspects of Saddam's detention.

Saddam and seven of his former aides are being tried for crimes against humanity for allegedly being involved in the killing of about 150 people in the village of Dujail, Iraq, in July 1982. Coalition and U.S. forces deposed the then-dictator in April 2003. U.S. troops captured him -- dirty, disheveled and hiding in a hole -- in December of that year.

Saddam's trial began Oct. 19, 2005, but it has been postponed a number of times due to the killing of two defense lawyers, the flight of another, and procedural arguments. Saddam has repeatedly denounced the legal proceedings against him. The former dictator has been responsible for several loud courtroom outbursts and disruptions

"I'm not going to try to characterize the trial or comment on some of the more theatrical aspects of it," Whitman said, noting that Saddam deserves a fair trial for his alleged crimes.

The Iraqi magistrate presiding over Saddam's trial, Judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin, quit his post Jan. 9, citing personal reasons, according to news reports. Then Amin's replacement, Judge Said Hammashi, the most senior among the remaining magistrates hearing Saddam's trial, was removed Jan. 23 because he was accused of once being a Baath Party member.

Yesterday, an absence of witnesses caused Saddam's trial to be postponed yet again, with Jan. 29 as the slated restart date, according to news reports.

"I think the general sentiment across the world is that Saddam Hussein should be held to account for his actions, and that's being done," Whitman said. "As we know, sometimes legal processes take some time."

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