Ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein will face charges of premeditated murder, torture and forced expulsion and disappearances when he goes on trial next week for a 1982 massacre of Shiites, a court official said today.
A second case against Saddam and other defendants for another of the atrocities allegedly carried out by his regime could be presented to the Iraqi Special Tribunal within days, investigating judge Raid Juhi said in Baghdad.
Saddam and seven other defendants face their first trial starting on October 19 for the massacre of 143 Shiites in the village of Dujail, north of Baghdad.
Prosecutors have not announced the exact charges, which are expected to be read out in the first sessions. Saddam could face the death penalty if convicted.
Juhi said the charges would focus on the areas of “crimes of premeditated murder, forced expulsion of residents, torture and forced disappearances of individuals.”
Juhi underlined that there would be no postponement of the trial’s start. “The date for the trial is as it is. There is no change. The 19th will be the day for the first session,”
“The Special Tribunal has enabled the representatives of the defence through all legal means to completely review all the evidence, documents and investigation papers,” he said.
Saddam’s lawyers have said they received the documents on September 25 and appealed for the start of trial to be delayed to give them more time to review them.
Juhi, the investigating judge who filed the Dujail case with the tribunal in July, said his office was compiling 12 other cases for separate trials on other atrocities, including a 1988 chemical weapons attack on the Kurdish town of Halabja that killed an estimated 5,000 people and the execution of 8,000 members of the Barzani tribe, a powerful Kurdish clan to which the current Kurdistan Democratic Party leader, Massoud Barzani, belongs.
Some of those cases “are about to be concluded in a few days” and will then be handed over to the court for trial, Juhi said. He did not specify which cases or whether Saddam would be a defendant in all of them.
It is not known when the next trial would start. It has taken three months between the time the Dujail case was presented to the court and the trial’s start.
Saddam, 68, has been jailed under American control at a US military detention complex since his December 2003 capture near his hometown, Tikrit.
The case of the Dujail massacre is being tried first because it was the easiest case to prepare, court officials have said. There will be no jury. The judges’ panel will question witnesses and decide the guilt or innocence of Saddam and seven co-defendants.
The massacres were a crackdown in retaliation for a July 8, 1982 assassination attempt staged by villagers at the height of Saddam’s power. Gunmen opened fire on Saddam’s motorcade as he passed through town, but he was unhurt. In swift retaliation, Iraqi army helicopters fired on villagers, and troops rounded up and imprisoned residents. Residents say some relatives not among the 143 known dead are still missing.
The seven other defendants in the Dujail trial includes Saddam’s then-intelligence chief, Barazan Ibrahim; his vice president Taha Yassin Ramadan; Awad Hamed al-Bandar, the head of the Revolutionary court; and four senior Baath Party officials in the Dujail region, Abdullah Kazim Ruwayyid, Ali Dayim Ali, Mohammed Azawi Ali and Mizhar Abdullah Ruwayyid.