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June 6, 2006
Iraqi Judge Tires Of Saddam Defense Obstructionism

The presiding judge in the trial of Saddam Hussein castigated the defense attorneys for their repeated motions for dismissal as well as their inability to produce witnesses as promised. He angrily suspended the trial for a week to give the defense one last chance to organize themselves, and warned them against making allegations without substantiation:

The defendants have been accused of orchestrating the massacre of 148 people in retribution for a failed assassination attempt against Hussein in 1982. But defense attorneys pressed their claim Monday that at least 14 of those people were not killed. Some of the alleged victims are still alive and others died in the Iran-Iraq war, they said.

Judge Raouf Rasheed Abdel Rahman had little patience for their complaints. Nor was he pleased to find most defense witnesses scheduled to testify hadn't shown up; lawyers said they were too scared to appear.

Abdel Rahman ordered the lawyers to produce documents proving that the alleged victims in the village of Dujayl weren't really executed. In scathing tones, he also accused members of the defense of turning a judicial process into a political show and ordered them to bring a final list of witnesses by next Monday.

"How many times have you made this request?" he snapped when lawyers asked the court to call off the trial. "Frankly, you are not helping justice. All you care about is obstructing the work of the court. Focus on your defense and clearing the defendants."

The judge railed against the only possible defense Saddam and his henchmen could possibly mount -- a delay-and-distraction strategy that hoped to tire the world of the effort to convict the Iraqi dictator. No one disputes that Saddam committed terrible crimes during his decades as the tyrant of the Tigris. Estimates of the death toll of his genocidal attacks on Shi'ites and Kurds range from the low hundreds of thousands to several million, the latter by National Geographic.

The question remains as to whether a trial for his crimes can successfully conclude with all of these obstructionist tactics used by the attorneys, and so far the answer appears to be yes. Those who have convinced themselves of a basic injustice in hauling Saddam before this tribunal will never be convinced, of course, but the Ramsey Clarks of this world have made themselves irrelevant anyway. So far, the presiding judge has performed better than his predecessor in forcing the defense to actually work on the trial rather than use the dock as a launch platform for Saddam's political rants. That was an easier task during the prosecution case, but as Judge Rahman showed yesterday, he will not shy from demanding focus during the defense case as well.

Saddam's team has until Monday to produce their witnesses. If they have none, expect Rahman to declare the trial concluded and request closing arguments. Most telling will be if Saddam takes the stand himself. Although in a legal sense he would be foolish to do so -- being guilty -- in a political sense, it's an opportunity that I predict he simply cannot resist. He presumes that his testimony will garner worldwide attention, perhaps even akin to OJ-trial status, with breathless updates and round-the-clock analysis. Perhaps. It's really rather telling, though, that the Los Angeles Times appears to be the only major newspaper following the trial at all.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 6, 2006 5:59 AM

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