April 17, 2006

Saddam Trial - Session 21 (April 17)

The trial of Saddam Husayn resumed for an hour today. This was the 21st session of the trial that began in October. Today's' session focused on a report from the team of handwriting experts charged to determine the authenticity of signatures on documents implicating Saddam and his co-defendants in the execution of over 140 Shi'a Iraqis. The Iraqis were from the village of Dujayl, the scene of an assassination attempt against Saddam in 1982.

After the judge dismissed yet another request by Saddam's lead attorney Khalil Ad-Dulaymi for the judge to step down, the handwriting team chief was called to present his report. After listing which defendants either provided or refused to provide handwriting samples, the expert presented a lengthy explanation of which documents he used as exemplars to establish the authenticity of the signatures on the documents submitted as evidence.

Both Saddam Husayn and his half brother, former Iraqi Intelligence Service chief Barzan At-Tikriti, had refused to provide handwriting samples. Not surprisingly, they rejected the experts' claims that the signatures on the documents are authentic. They claim that the team of experts cannot provide a fair examination because they are part of the government (employees of the Ministry of the Interior) that is bringing the case against them. The defendants demanded that an international team (from anywhere but Iran) be called in to examine the documents.

Several of the defendants (including Barzan) complained that the prosecutor had announced to the media the results of the handwriting analysis prior to it being presented in court - the prosecutor denied having made those statements.

The prosecution asked the judge to appoint a team of five experts be called in to make further examination of the signatures. The judge agreed and adjourned the trial until April 19.

The trial should be nearing an end. After authentication of the signatures, most if not all of the evidence will have been presented and the tribunal can determine innocence or guilt.