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American Forces Press Service

Iraqis to Have 'Lead Role' in Saddam's Trial

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 9, 2004 - The United States will provide technical support for the trial of Saddam Hussein, but the Iraqi people will have the primary role in bringing the deposed dictator to justice, a senior U.S. official said today.

Dan Senor, chief spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority, pointed out during a Baghdad press briefing that civilian administrator L. Paul Bremer III met today with a delegation of U.S. Justice Department legal experts recently arrived in the country.

As American and Iraqi legalists develop the format to bring Hussein and others before justice for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity, Senor said the Iraqis would have "the lead role" in any proceedings against Hussein. "This will be their trial," he emphasized.

Gathering and examining evidence for Saddam's trial and any potential trials of his followers also in custody "takes time," Senor pointed out. He said "there's not a trial to be expected" between now and the CPA's slated June 30 transfer of power to the Iraqi people. "The Iraqis will really be leading the (special trials) process after the handover of sovereignty," he noted.

Hussein was discovered hiding in a hole near his hometown of Tikrit when U.S. forces captured him Dec. 13, 2003. He had been a fugitive since the fall of his Baathist Party government in early April 2003.

U.S. President George Bush said two days after the dictator's capture that Saddam would be detained as the U.S. government works with Iraqi authorities "to develop a way to try him that will stand international scrutiny."

The former dictator deserves a fair trial, Bush told reporters that day, and asserted that Saddam's ultimate fate "is going to be up to the Iraqis."

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