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Saddam Hussein Trial Faces Second Delay After Brief Resumption

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 28, 2005 – The trial for former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein resumed briefly today, but an Iraqi judge granted another delay to give the defense team more time to prepare, an official in Baghdad confirmed today.

Saddam and seven other former aides are charged with crimes against humanity associated with a July 8, 1982, massacre in Dujail, Iraq. Acting on Saddam's orders, Iraqi security forces allegedly massacred about 150 villagers in retaliation for a failed assassination attempt against the former ruler.

The trial initially opened Oct. 19, but the judge granted a defense motion for more time to prepare.

When the proceedings reconvened today after a five-week break, Chief Judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin granted a one-week delay, until Dec. 5. The decision followed three setbacks for the defense team: Two members were killed and another wounded since Oct. 19, officials confirmed.

Sadoon Janabi, who was representing Awad Hamad Bandar, the former chief judge of Saddam's Revolutionary Court, was killed Oct. 20 after he refused protection from the Iraqi government. Adil Muhammed al-Zabaidi, who was representing Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan, was murdered Nov. 8. Another defense attorney was wounded in that incident and reportedly has fled Iraq.

Saddam's defense team now has two new members: former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark and Najib al-Nueimi, a former Qatari justice minister. News reports said the two were called in to help give international credibility to the proceedings, which State Department officials described as "a completely Iraqi-led process."

Saddam arrived several minutes late for today's session, complaining about having to walk up several flights of stairs because of a broken elevator and refusing to appear in court wearing handcuffs, news reports said. During the brief proceedings, he also complained about Iraq's "occupiers."

In addition to Bandar and Ramadan, other defendants are Barzan Ebraheem al-Hassan, Abd Allah Kadhem Ruaid, Ali Daeem Ali, Mohammed Azawi Ali and Mizher Abdulah Rawed, according to the Iraqi Special Tribunal Web site.

The Dujail incident is not the most egregious of atrocities the former dictator has been accused of, State Department officials said on background, but it does represent the most straightforward case and as a result, the first one ready to take to trial. Rather than waiting for investigations on nearly a dozen other cases to conclude, the Iraqis opted to move forward with the Dujail trial, officials said.

Meanwhile, Iraqi investigators are continuing to pursue other allegations against Saddam and his disciples. Among them are the 1988 Anfal campaign against the Kurds, including chemical attacks on the village of Halabja; the brutal crushing of a Shiite revolt in southern Iraq in 1991; and repression of the Faylee Kurds, officials said.

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.

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