March 1, 2006

Saddam Husayn Trial: Getting Closer to Actual Evidence

In the latest installment (February 28 and March 1) of the seemingly never-ending trial of Saddam Husayn, the court may be getting close to actually presenting evidence that ties the deposed Iraqi leader to the crime.

Saddam and seven co-defendants are charged with the murder of 148 Iraqi Shi’a in the village of Ad-Dujayl after a July 1982 assassination attempt against the former president. Up until these two court sessions, the prosecutors have succeeded in presenting compelling evidence against the seven co-defendants, including Saddam’s half brother and former chief of the dreaded Iraqi Intelligence Service (Al-Mukhabarat), they had not presented any direct evidence implicating Saddam Husayn himself. (Read my previous piece on this subject.)

Although the prosecution has presented documentation at previous sessions that allege that Saddam Husayn countersigned orders in 1984 authorizing the execution of the perpetrators of the Ad-Dujayl assassination attempt, the evidence was unclear and Saddam’s former office chief said he was not sure if it was in fact Saddam’s signature or initials. However, the documents presented at the last two sessions clearly indicate the signature block of Saddam Husayn on orders directing the trial of the perpetrators and confiscation of their property.

Faced with this apparent solid evidence, Saddam tacitly acknowledged that he gave the order, but defended his actions by asking, “Where is the crime?" He stated that those involved had attempted to murder the head of state – ordering them to be held for trial and confiscating their lands were legal under Iraqi law.

Saddam asked, and was permitted, to address the court. In an interesting turn of events, he said that he was acting as head of state and that his seven co-defendants were merely following orders. He asked that they freed and only he held accountable for the alleged crime.

Saddam may be trying to invoke some sort of executive immunity. In his first court appearance in July 2004, he asked the judge if he was being charged as Saddam Husayn the man, or Saddam Husayn, the president of Iraq. He said that many of the charges allege crimes committed while he was acting as a head of state.

The trial will resume on Sunday, March 12.