June 19, 2006

Saddam Trial Heading Into Final Arguments

The trial of Saddam Hussein has concluded its evidentiary phase and now has proceeded to final arguments. To no one's great surprise, the prosecutors demanded the death penalty for Saddam and his co-defendants, while the defendants tried to disrupt the proceedings yet again:

The prosecutor asked for the death penalty for Saddam Hussein and two of his co-defendants, saying in closing arguments Monday that the former Iraqi leader and his regime committed crimes against humanity in a "revenge" attack on Shiite civilians in the 1980s.

The arguments brought the eight-month-old trial into its final phase. After Monday's session, the court adjourned until July 10, when the defense will begin making its final summation.

Saddam, dressed in a black suit, sat silently, sometimes taking notes, as chief prosecutor Jaafar al-Moussawi delivered his arguments, listing the evidence against each of the eight defendants.

Concluding his remarks, al-Moussawi asked for the death penalty against Saddam, his half brother Barzan Ibrahim — the head of the Mukhabarat intelligence agency at the time — and Taha Yassin Ramadan, a former senior regime member. The method of execution is hanging.

The defense complained that the judges forced them to close their case prematurely, but the court had had enough of witnesses who failed to appear and those who did offering irrelevancies. Four witnesses found themselves under arrest for perjury, showing that the court had abandoned it earlier mollification of the dictatorship's key figures and instead opted for judicial sanity.

Not all defendants got the call for hanging. The prosecutor recommended lighter sentences for a few of the defendants and called for the outright release of one, Mohammed Azawi Ali, due to a lack of evidence specific to the Dujail crimes. One defendant did not get a recommendation of sentencing: Awad al-Bandar, the man who ironically had no problem sentencing 148 Dujail men, women, and children to death. The prosecution called for his conviction but left out any recommendation for punishment.

The defense will take to the lectern later this week. Expect to hear plenty of political diatribes and calls for Iraqi uprisings against the newly elected government in their summation -- and expect the tough judges to shut it down shortly afterwards.


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