February 14, 2006

Saddam Trial - February 14

On Tuesday, February 14, Saddam Husayn and his seven co-defendants again appeared in court, ostensibly against their will. Today, Saddam was dressed in a dark suit rather than the traditional Arab robe he wore yesterday. His half-brother Barzan Ibrahim Al-Tikriti continued to show his disdain for the proceedings by wearing an undershirt and athletic trousers.

Saddam claimed that the defendants were in the third day of a hunger strike to protest being forced to appear in court, and being forced to appear without their defense team. The defense team was present outside the courtroom earlier, but departed, continuing their boycott of the proceedings to protest the selection of Ru'uf 'Abd Ar-Rahman as the judge.

My observations:

Today could have been called "The Barzan and Saddam Show."

Three witnesses appeared before the tribunal today. The first witness appeared behind a curtain, and was identified as an intelligence officer working in Dujayl, the site of a failed assassination attempt against Saddam Husayn in 1982. From his thick Iraqi slang, he appeared to be a low-level officer, probably from Dujayl itself. He accused Barzan, director of the Iraqi Intelligence Service (Al-Mukhabarat) of ordering the reaction to the failed attempt. Barzan refuted the testimony, claiming that at the time of the assassination attempt, he was not in charge of the IIS, but rather was in charge of Presidential security.

The second witness, Fadhil Al-'Azawi, a retired diplomat and former deputy director of the IIS, claimed to know nothing in detail about the incident in Dujayl and that he was compelled to appear. The third witness, Hamid Yusif Hamadi, a retired minister of culture and former secretary to the president, also claimed he had no direct knowledge of events in Dujayl other than what he saw in the press or heard second hand from other government officials.

Most of the session was taken up by continued grandstanding by Saddam and Barzan. Saddam continued his challenges to the court's legitimacy and the treatment afforded the defendants. Barzan, surprisingly, was quite coherent in his cross examination of the witnesses, although most of it was declarative and not interrogative. There is a reason for BArzan's lengthy diatribes. The witnesses thus far have been able to fairly well implicate Barzan, although it would be difficult to find Saddam Husayn guilty as no direct evidence against the former president has yet been presented.

The judge appears to be frustrated, however, much of it is probably his own fault. He has failed to silence the outbursts of Saddam and Barzan. Further, almost every witness that might be able to directly implicate Saddam has claimed no memory of the events of 24 years ago. The presence of the witnesses was merely an opportunity for Saddam and Barzan to grandstand.

Thus far, it appears that there is probably enough evidence to support a guilty verdict against the seven co-defendants - Barzan's explanations notwithstanding - but so far there has been no "smoking gun" against Saddam Husayn.

The trial will resume on February 28th.