October 16, 2006

Saddam Husayn Verdict/Sentencing Due November 5

Saddam on trialOn November 5, the Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal will publish the verdict of the first trial of Saddam Husayn; sentencing will occur at the same time. Saddam and his seven co-defendants could be sentenced to death by hanging for the murder of 146 Shi'a Iraqis in the town of Ad-Dujayl following an assassination attempt there. Saddam's co-defendants include his half brother Barzan At-Tikriti, former chief of the Iraqi Intelligence Service.

As the publishing of the verdict approaches, violence directed at the court and prosecution continues. The brother of the top prosecutor in Saddam's second trial was murdered in front of his wife at his home in Baghdad on October 16. This comes just two weeks after the brother in law and nephew of the judge in that same trial were murdered. While awaiting the results of the first trial, Saddam and six co-defendants are being tried on charges of crimes against humanity, specifically the killing of thousands of Kurds in the Anfal campaign during the Iran-Iraq war.

This violence is an attempt on the part of the insurgency - specifically former regime elements - to intimidate the prosecution of the former Iraqi leader. As the November 5 announcement of the verdict, which most observers expect to be "guilty," violence may escalate. If Saddam is found guilty and sentenced to death, there may be a spike in insurgent activity.

As he waits to be found guilty - at some point one of the charges will stick - Saddam is not going quietly into the night. In a letter released via his lawyers (including the despicable American Ramsey Clark - see my earlier comments on that), he urges Iraqis to disregard sectarian differences and unite in forcing American forces out of Iraq. Claiming that victory was close at hand, he signed the letter as the president and commander-in-chief of the "holy warrior armed forces."

Since Saddam's main accusers are the Shi'a and Kurds - together about 80 percent of the population - that suffered so badly under his rule, I wouldn't put much stock in his prediction.