The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Saddam court show set to roll

Baghdad, June 29 (Reuters): Saddam Hussein will get his first day in an Iraqi court on Thursday, three days after Iraq regained its sovereignty from the US, but he will remain under American guard to ensure he doesn’t escape.

Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said today that Saddam and up to 11 others would be transferred to Iraqi legal custody tomorrow and appear before Iraqi judges to be charged a day later. Allawi’s new government is under pressure to demonstrate to ordinary Iraqis a break with the past and show that it is tough on the violence blighting the country.

“We would like to show the world also that the Iraqi government means business,” he said.

Allawi added that the US-led multinational force would keep physical custody of Saddam and the other 11 until Iraq’s nascent police force was capable of detaining them securely.

“We want to make sure that Saddam Hussein is alive for his trial. We want to make sure he is actually there for his trial,” Dan Senor, former spokesman for the US-led occupation authority, told NBC’s Today show in the US, explaining why the former dictator remained under American guard

But Saddam would lose prisoner of war status, which affords him certain rights under international law, once he is charged by an Iraqi court, justice minister Malik al-Hassan said.

“We are not interested in the status that was afforded to Saddam when he was captured by the coalition forces but in the status under which we receive him,” he said. “He is charged with crimes committed in Iraq. He is considered a person charged with ordinary crimes, without prisoner status.”

Hassan said Iraqi courts would also try fugitive Baathists such as Saddam’s former lieutenant Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri in absentia, provided there was enough evidence.

According to a CBS report on Sunday, Saddam will be handed over to Iraqi police by the US in a process designed to show Iraqis their former leader in handcuffs and under Iraqi control.

“We wanted to show our people that this miserable soul is in the hands of Iraqis now,” Iraqi national security adviser Muwafak al-Rubaie told the CBS Evening News. He said two American soldiers would take a handcuffed Saddam from his cell and turn him over to four Iraqi policemen. Saddam is then to be taken before a judge, where he will stand without handcuffs.

There was no let-up in the violence today. Three US Marines were killed in a roadside bomb blast in Baghdad, raising to at least 632 the number of US soldiers killed in action since the start of the war last year.

“I don’t know why the terrorists want to kill us. We just want to help Iraqis,” said a Marine at the scene.

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