Specter Urges Discipline in Hussein Trial
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
BAGHDAD, Dec. 27 -- Saddam Hussein's judges should take control of his chaotic trial, Sen. Arlen Specter said here Tuesday, either by holding him in contempt for his repeated disruptions of the proceedings or banishing him from the courtroom.
Specter (R-Pa.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said U.S. officials in Baghdad had told him that they expect Hussein to face a half-dozen trials. That would raise the prospect of months or years of proceedings unless conviction, condemnation and hanging for any one case stop the clock on trials to follow.
Specter spoke to reporters in the courtroom where Hussein and seven co-defendants are being tried on charges related to the torture and killings of more than 140 residents of the southern town of Dujail after an assassination attempt against Hussein there in 1982.
While gathering vivid accounts from weeping witnesses of retribution for the attack, the court proceedings have often been dominated by the outbursts of Hussein and his former aides. At one point he told judges, "Go to hell." His half brother and co-defendant has spit at officials and told witnesses to die. One day, all eight defendants walked out of court.
"I have been disappointed the way the court has permitted Saddam to dominate the proceedings, and I respect Iraqi sovereignty and I respect judicial independence, but it's also a fair comment to evaluate what is going on," Specter said, before a meeting with the trial judges.
"The evidence is there to portray to the world exactly what has happened here," Specter said. "You have a butcher who has butchered his own people, a torturer who has tortured his own people. . . .And that evidence ought to be presented in a systematic way."
Specter said that U.S. and international law have precedents for holding disruptive defendants in contempt and trying them without their being present in the courtroom. "Those are subjects I intend to take up with the Iraqis," he said.
Kevin Dooley, a U.S. Embassy liaison officer working with the special tribunal trying Hussein, said it was likely that charges for other cases would be filed against the former Iraqi leader, but he declined comment on the number or length of the prospective trials.
In an interview last week with the Arabic language, London-based Al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper, chief investigating judge Raeed Juhi said authorities were ready to present cases against Hussein in the 1988 chemical bomb attack of the Kurdish town of Halabja that killed 5,000 people and a campaign that killed more than 100,000 Kurds and leveled Kurdish villages.
But Juhi added that "if the deposed president is sentenced to death in the Dujail case and is executed, all other cases against him would be dropped."
In a separate development, city workers digging in the Shiite holy city of Karbala on Monday discovered what police described as a mass grave from Hussein's crushing of an uprising by Shiite Muslims in 1991 that followed the Persian Gulf War, news agencies reported. There was no word on the number of bodies found.
Political violence in Iraq on Tuesday killed at least seven Iraqis: a female pharmacist who was an activist for the country's Turkmen minority, shot dead in Tikrit; an army officer shot dead in Kirkuk; a trucker killed by a roadside bomb in Kirkuk; and two policemen and two bystanders killed in a gun battle with presumed insurgents in Baghdad, authorities said.
Two American soldiers died when their AH-64 Apache helicopter crashed in west Baghdad after colliding with another Apache. The U.S. military said the craft had not come under fire. Another soldier died of wounds sustained in a firefight Monday in western Iraq, the military said.
By the standards of Iraq, the violence was low-level. It came as Sunni Arabs demonstrated in cities in the western and central parts of the country to demand the annulment of the Dec. 15 national elections in which a preliminary tally shows that the country's Shiite majority won the biggest share of seats.
About 5,000 people turned out in Baghdad. "Out, out, Iran!" marchers shouted, decrying Iranian influence on Iraq's governing Shiite religious parties. Police in Baqubah, about 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, fired into the air and arrested 10 people to block a protest by a Sunni crowd estimated at 1,000.
In Cairo, the Egyptian capital, post-election coalition jockeying and Arab League efforts to promote Iraqi reconciliation brought together Hadi Amiri, head of the Badr Organization, Iraq's most powerful Shiite militia, and Harith Dhari, head of the Association of Muslim Scholars, a leading Sunni Arab religious group that Shiite leaders say is linked to the Sunni-led insurgency.
Shiite officials said the two talked about violence by both sides. While no new pledges of cooperation were announced, the mere fact of a meeting between the two camps was remarkable.
Special correspondents Naseer Nouri and K.I. Ibrahim in Baghdad contributed to this report.