|WASHINGTON, Mar. 1, 2005 Iraq's new court system is moving forward on prosecuting five men charged with mass executions following an attempt on former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's life in 1982. |
Chief Investigative Judge Raid Juhi referred five defendants to a trial chamber to face the charges Feb. 28. The case is the first involving charges against officials connected with the former regime.
According to U.S. Embassy officials in Baghdad, who discussed the Iraqi Special Tribunal's announcement with reporters Feb. 28, rules of the court system require a 45-day waiting period before the trial can begin.
The trial will be an open, public proceeding that a U.S. Embassy official said will be "the true test of transparency" for Iraq's court system as the country's citizens get an opportunity to see the evidence presented to a five- member Iraqi special tribunal and the decisions made.
Throughout the trial, "innocence is presumed," the official said.
A U.S. Embassy official in Baghdad described the course of events that led to the mass executions more than two decades ago. On July 8, 1982, Saddam was passing through the agricultural town of Dajil, Iraq, near Balad, when an unsuccessful assassination attempt was launched against him.
Although the evidence demonstrates that the attempt was "a crime of opportunity where a few people attempted to fire at Saddam Hussein," the official said the backlash was "devastating" and targeted the entire village. Saddam's men executed some 143 men on charges of being members of the outlawed Dawa party. In addition, they incarcerated an estimated 1,500 residents for up to four years without charges, destroyed many of their homes, and stripped the surrounding land so it could no longer be used for farming.
The defendants include three officials from the former regime: Barazan Ibrahim Hassan, 53, half-brother to the former dictator and chief of his security forces; Taha Yasin Ramadan, 66, former deputy prime minister and long-time Saddam confidant; and Awad al-Bandar, 60, former chief judge for the Revolutionary Court.
Also charged were Abdullah Ruwid, 79, a long-term Baathist who headed the Alm Shaykh tribe, and his son, Muzir Ruwid, 50. Both were residents of Dajil who allegedly participated in the roundup of their fellow citizens following the assassination attempt.
All five have legal representation, officials said, with both Ruwids being represented by the same attorney.
After hearing the case, the five-judge panel will decide on the defendants' guilt or innocence and, if appropriate, sentencing. If convicted, the U.S. Embassy official said the defendants could face incarceration or death.