|(Top) A file picture of Saddam Hussein with a sword and (above) a picture taken from Iraqi TV shows the courtroom where the former President will go on trial in Baghdad. (Reuters)
Baghdad, Oct. 18 (Reuters): Saddam Hussein and seven members of his Baath party, including his half-brother, will file into a marble-lined, chandelier-hung courtroom in Baghdad tomorrow to face the stares of five judges and the world.
Two years after he was found hiding in a hole near where he was born, the former Iraqi President and his co-defendants go on trial for their lives on charges of crimes against humanity for the killing of more than 140 Shia men two decades ago.
Prosecutors say the men, from the town of Dujail, north of Baghdad, were ordered killed after a failed attempt on the then leader’s life as he visited the town in July 1982. Scores of families from Dujail are also said to have been persecuted.
The day in court for the former dictator has been long awaited by Iraqis, but it may not last long.
Sources close to the tribunal conducting the trial say the case may well be quickly adjourned, perhaps on the first day, so judges can study defence motions for a dismissal or delay.
Saddam’s chief lawyer, Khalil Dulaimi, an Iraqi with little experience of major cases, including crimes against humanity, has said he intends to challenge the legitimacy of the court.
Today, the defence team backing Dulaimi from London confirmed that would be his approach, saying he would present a 122-point document seeking to show that the court, whose judges were chosen under US occupation, does not have jurisdiction.
“Dulaimi will appear before the court and deliver the argument. He will also present the document if the court allows him,” said a statement by the lawyers in London.
Set up after Saddam’s capture in December 2003, the Iraqi Special Tribunal was created while US forces were formally occupying Iraq and was funded by Washington .
Dulaimi is also expected to petition the court for more time to study the evidence against his client, saying that 45 days are not sufficient to study more than 800 pages of evidence.
The trial will get under way amid intense security measures, unprecedented even for Iraq, with body searches, X-rays, deep background checks on observers, eye-scans and finger-printing.
The defendants will sit facing the judges, who will be on a raised dais behind court clerks. A curtain will protect the identity of witnesses, and bullet-proof glass will separate the few journalists and observers from the rest of the court.