Mon, Sep 05, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Saddam to go on trial next month, Iraqi officials say

AFP , BAGHDAD

Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and seven of his henchmen will go on trial on Oct. 19 over the massacre of 143 people more than two decades ago, a government official announced yesterday.

"In view of recent leaks to the press and in the absence of an official spokesman for the tribunal, I have been authorized to announce that the trial of Saddam Hussein will begin on October 19," government spokesman Laith Kubba told a news conference.

Saddam and the seven others will be tried by the Iraqi Special Tribunal over the 1982 killing of 143 residents in the village of Dujail, northeast of Baghdad, where he had been the target of a failed assassination bid.

Saddam is also expected to face separate trials at a later date on further counts of crimes against humanity, particularly with regard to the gassing of Kurds and the mass killings of Shiites in the south of the country.

But Kubba suggested that, if found guilty and sentenced to death after the initial trial, the punishment could be carried out without waiting for any further trials.

If the sentence was confirmed by the Supreme Council for Justice, the highest judicial authority in Iraq, and approved by the presidential council, it "will be implemented immediately," he told reporters.

The 68-year-old Saddam, who was ousted in April 2003 and captured by US forces in December of that year, is currently being detained by US forces outside Baghdad airport.

Others who will stand trial with him include former vice-president Taha Yassin Ramadan, former intelligence chief Barzan Ibrahim Hassan al-Tikriti, a Saddam half-brother, and Awad Ahmad al-Bandar, a former deputy chief in Saddam's Cabinet.

The remaining four -- Abdullah Khadem Ruweid, Mezhar Abdullah Ruweid, Ali Daeh Ali and Mohammad Azzam al-Ali -- are former ruling Baath party officials responsible for the Dujail area.

They will be tried for the murder of 143 Iraqi citizens, the jailing of 399 families, the demolition of houses and destruction of farmland and the forced exile of a number of the mainly Shiite villagers, Kubba said.

An Iraqi official had said on Friday Saddam would go on trial after a national referendum on Oct. 15 on Iraq's new draft constitution, which has caused deep divisions between the ousted Sunni elite and majority Shiites.

Renewed talks are being held to try to forge agreement following widespread calls for unity after the deadly stampede last week which killed nearly 1,000 Shiite pilgrims.

But the strength of the Sunni-driven insurgency was underlined with more attacks yesterday that killed five Iraq soldiers and a policeman.

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