Saddam trial judge set to be replaced by deputy

A SHI’ITE lawyer is expected to take charge of Saddam Hussein’s trial for the 1982 massacre of over 140 Shiites, a court official said yesterday.

He would replace the Kurdish chief judge, who resigned amid claims of government interference in the high-profile case. His resignation has yet to be accepted by the Iraqi government.

Said al-Hamash, the second-ranking member of the five-judge tribunal trying the former Iraqi leader, is expected to replace chief judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin, said Raid Juhi, the top investigating judge who prepared the case against Saddam.

Amin’s resignation followed complaints over the slow progress of the trial into allegations of Saddam’s involvement in the 1982 Dujail killings north of Baghdad following an assassination attempt against him.

“I think al-Hamash will take over temporarily until he is appointed through an official notice, but the resignation of Rizgar (Amin) has not been officially accepted and if he changes his mind, he will be back in his post,” Juhi said.

The switch is not expected to prevent the trial’s January 24 scheduled resumption.

Elsewhere, gunmen terrorised the west Baghdad neighbourhood of al-Baiyaa yesterday, killing a police lieutenant driving to work, before three more men - including a father and son - were gunned down in the same area.

Earlier in the day, the bullet-riddled bodies of an army battalion commander and his brother were found in al-Baiyaa.

Police found four bound and blindfolded bodies, each shot in the back of the head and dumped in a Baghdad sewer, said Captain Hayder Ibrahim. It was unclear when they died.

A team of masked gunmen killed two people and wounded three others in attacks on the regional headquarters of Iraq’s anti-corruption Integrity Commission and the nearby offices of the Kurdistan People’s Party in Kirkuk, said police Captain Farhad al-Talabani.

Two Iraqi policewomen were abducted while waiting for a bus in eastern Baghdad’s Sadr City, said police Lt Laith Abdul Al said. Their fates are not known.

In comments aimed at curbing Iraq’s bloodshed, President Jalal Talabani predicted the country’s most prominent Sunni Arab political group would join a national unity government once December 15 election results were announced.

And in a grisly reminder of Iraq’s bloody past, the remains of 22 bodies were found in a mass grave south of Najaf yesterday, dating back apparently to the 1991 Shi’ite uprising against Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces, police officer Ali Abdul Hussein said.

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