Iraqi police smash plot to kill judge in Saddam trial

Iraqi police smash plot to kill judge in Saddam trial
November 27th, 2005  
Team Infidel

Topic: Iraqi police smash plot to kill judge in Saddam trial

Iraqi police smash plot to kill judge in Saddam trial
BAGHDAD, Nov 27 (AFP) - Iraqi police said they have smashed an Al-Qaeda cell
plotting to kill the chief judge in charge of building the case against
ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, whose trial resumes on Monday after a
five-week recess.

"We arrested 12 members of a cell linked to the Iraqi branch of Al-Qaeda
during a dawn raid on a house in eastern Kirkuk," in northern Iraq, police
colonel Anwar Kader said Saturday.

"They confessed during questioning to planning to kill (chief judge) Raed
al-Juhi this week."

Juhi is the chief investigative judge on the Iraqi High Tribunal which is
tasked with judging former regime officials, including Saddam, for crimes
against humanity, war crimes and genocide.

Kader said all the suspects were Iraqi Sunni Arabs from Kirkuk, from
Saddam's hometown of Tikrit or from the restive western province of

The 12 suspects also confessed to helping to carry out suicide attacks in
the Iraqi Kurdish city of Sulaimaniyah in October in which 10 people were
killed, he said.

Security will be a top priority when the trial of Saddam and seven former
henchmen resumes Monday in Baghdad on charges of killing 148 men and youths
from the Shiite town of Dujail, north of the capital, after the former
leader escaped an assassination attempt there in 1982.

Saddam, 68, who refuses to recognize the court, and his former aides have
pleaded not guilty to the charges. They face the death penalty if convicted.

Saddam is likely to face a raft of other charges, ranging from his massacre
of Kurds in the north of the country in 1988, to that of Shiites in the
south in 1991, and crimes committed during the wars against Iran and Kuwait.

Iraqi officials said they chose to start with the Dujail case because it is
relatively staighforward and well-documented.

Saddam's habit of videotaping all his orders to ensure they were carried out
has back-fired against him, said a source close to the investigation.

On Monday, the court is expected to call the first witnesses for the
prosecution, who may testify from behind screens or with faces masked to
protect their anonymity, according to a US official.

"It's up to the individual witnesses whether or not they show their faces or
whether their identity is disguised in some other way," he said.

The trial opened on October 19, but immediately recessed to give lawyers
time to prepare.

The murder of two defence lawywers and the wounding of a third led however
to the threat of a boycott by defence counsels.

US officials and lawyers said the threat was lifted after the lawyers were
provided with security and after the United States promised to assist in the
investigation of the murder of the lawyers.

"It is currently expected there will be at least one defence counsel for
each defendant present at the trial on November 28," the US official said,
adding that most had accepted protection measures.

Some have accused Shiite-led militias, bent on retribution, for the murders,
while others suspect Sunni Arab insurgents of targeting the lawyers in a bid
to derail the trial.

Court sources said some lawyers have been allowed to recruit their own
security detail which will be paid for by the tribunal.

This will allow them not to be associated with foreign forces occupying the
country, or relying on Iraqi government forces, which some say have been
infiltrated by death squads.

Iraqi and US authorities had accused members of the defence team of using
the boycott as a strategy to derail the trial.

"In the event that one defendant counsel doesn't turn up, a stand-by counsel
can be put in place" by the court to replace him, the US official said.

International human rights groups have warned that the tribunal is itself
under scrutiny to ensure the ousted dictator, who was captured nearly two
years ago after months on the run, gets a fair trial.

The court, which recently changed its name to Iraqi High Tribunal, was set
up with US funding and legal assistance in December 2003 to prosecute senior
former regime officials on charges ranging from crimes against humanity and
genocide to war crimes and wasting national wealth.