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Saddam Hussein to Face Trial Soon, Iraqi Officials Say

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 18, 2005 – Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein will soon go to trial, a senior Iraqi judge said during a July 17 news conference in Baghdad, Iraq.

Judge Raeed Juhi, the chief judge of Iraq's special tribunal, said the trial date is expected to be set "within days," according to press reports.

Saddam and three other former regime members will stand trial for a July 8, 1982, massacre in Dujail, Iraq, following a failed assassination attempt against the former president. Iraqi security forces, acting on Saddam's orders, allegedly massacred an estimated 150 villagers.

Also facing trial are Barzan al-Tikriti, Saddam's half brother and former chief of Iraqi intelligence; Taha Yassin Ramadan, former vice president; and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, former chief of the Revolutionary Court, press reports said.

Meanwhile, Iraqi investigators are continuing to prepare charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide against Saddam and former regime members in 12 other cases. They include the 1988 chemical attack on the Kurdish village of Halabja, which left 5,000 dead, and the brutal crushing of a Shiite revolt in southern Iraq in 1991.

Juhi said the investigation into those cases is "in its final stages."

U.S. forces captured Saddam, who was hiding in a spider hole near his hometown of Tikrit, in December 2003. The Iraqi government maintains legal custody of the former dictator, although Multinational Force Iraq officials have physical custody of him at the Iraqi government's request, defense officials said.

Saddam's upcoming trial is expected to help bolster the security situation in Iraq, Foreign Minister Hoyshar Zebari said during a June interview.

Zebari said the evidence against the former dictator is staggering -- from mass graves of those who opposed him to the laundry list of atrocities he inflicted against his own people. "Every family has suffered from the rule of Saddam Hussein, so there is no lack of evidence whatsoever," Zebari said. "There is an abundance of evidence to try and prosecute him."

The Iraqi government "is very committed to putting Saddam and other members of his former regime on trial, and I personally think that this will impact the security situation," the foreign minister said.

"It is very important that we start -- the sooner the better," he said. "That is the view of this government. It is a widely shared view across the country."

Saddam will "be eligible for all the benefits of a free trial" and to choose his own defense team, Zebari said. "We will give him the same justice he has denied us for many years," he said.

The final verdict, he said, "will speak for Iraqi justice."

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