Saddam genocide trial set to resume amid controversy over judge

Saddam genocide trial set to resume amid controversy over judge
September 18th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: Saddam genocide trial set to resume amid controversy over judge

Saddam genocide trial set to resume amid controversy over judge
Byline:Jay Deshmukh
Date: 18 Sept 2006


BAGHDAD, Sept 17, 2006 (AFP) - The trial of ousted Iraqi ruler Saddam
Hussein on charges of genocide was to resume Monday amid accusations by
Kurdish and Shiite groups that the presiding judge is biased towards the

Saddam and six of his former henchmen will return to the dock after a
three-day break to face charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against

The seven are accused of spearheading the brutal 1987-1988 "Anfal" campaign
in Iraq's northern Kurdish region, which prosecutors say killed 182,000
Kurds after their villages were bombed, burned and razed to the ground.

If found guilty they face execution by hanging.

The trial in the past few sessions has turned controversial after friendly
exchanges between the Shiite chief judge Abdullah al-Ameri and Saddam, with
the prosecutor and some Kurdish and Shiite groups demanding his resignation.

In the previous session on Thursday, in a cordial exchange, Ameri said to
Saddam: "You were not a dictator," and suggested it was the people close to
him who made him look like one. Saddam thanked the judge.

Ameri's comment came after a Kurdish witness told the court how he had
managed to meet Saddam to ask the whereabouts of family members allegedly
killed in the Anfal attacks.

Seated in the dock, Saddam asked: "Why did you try to meet me when you knew
I was a dictator?"

It was at this moment that the judge stepped in and made the remark which
now has triggered demands for his resignation.

Iraq's Kurds are still nursing their wounds from Anfal while Shiites are
awaiting the verdict in Saddam's first trial on charges of murdering 148
villagers in the Dujail village in the 1980s.

The verdict for that trial is expected on October 16.

"We demand the dismissal of the judge at the high tribunal and the
nomination of another competent and neutral judge whose ideas are not
polluted by the fascist Baath" party, said a statement from the Kurdish
Halabja centre in Sulaimaniyah province.

Halabja was one of the Kurdish towns worst hit by chemical weapons attacks,
though these attacks are not part of the Anfal trial.

"The attitude of Abdullah al-Ameri towards the accused does not conform to
international legal practice in courtrooms worldwide or in such a tribunal,"
the statement said.

"His friendly attitude towards the accused has angered the families of
victims and impartial observers," it added, before saying the judge's
statement that Saddam was not a dictator "was the straw that broke the
camel's back".

In Friday prayer sermons, Shiite clerics took the judge to task for not
being firm enough with the former president.

Ameri, who has 25 years experience and was also a judge under the former
regime, was also accused of being lenient towards the defendants by the
prosecutor Munqith al-Faroon at the start of the session last Wednesday.

Faroon charged that Ameri was allowing Saddam to threaten witnesses and
their lawyers.

On Tuesday, Saddam had threatened one of the witness lawyers as he defended
the struggle of the Kurdish guerrilla against the old regime.

The ousted leader accused the lawyer of being an agent of "Iranians and
Zionists" and threatened to "crush" his head.

When the trial opened on August 21, Saddam had also threatened prosecutor
Faroon after he charged that the deposed ruler's forces had raped Iraqi
women during the Anfal campaign.

"If he says an Iraqi woman was raped in my era and he does not prove it, I
will hunt him down for the rest of my life," Saddam said.

Investigative judge Raed al-Juhi, meanwhile, has downplayed Ameri's comment.

"In the court, many statements are made," Juhi told reporters.

"Anything not legal would not affect the issue and the court will continue
with its neutrality. The judge is human after all," he said.

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