The show trial of Saddam Hussein has begun in Bahgdad. The Special Tribunal began its hearing two weeks early because judges feared there would not be time to get through all the evidence before Saddam’s execution on 18 December this year.
Charged with the murder and torture of 148 Shiites in Dujail in 1982, Saddam pleaded “not guilty”, after agreeing that calling himself “innocent” was a bit of a stretch. His lawyers outlined the former dictator’s defence, which is that he was just issuing orders and that the killings and torture were in fact conducted by low-ranking officials who feared they would be killed and tortured if they did not obey. As a secondary defence Hussein will claim to have never killed a human being, “only foul pig-dogs”.
But the credibility of Saddam’s defence appeared to be undermined when the defendant announced that as retribution for his trial he had ordered the execution of the all judges as well as their families and indiscriminate members of their tribes. The judges were not deterred by Saddam however, saying that the former dictator’s threats would not make life in Iraq any more dangerous for them than it is already is for everyone else.
The outburst is the biggest setback for the former dictator since his defence team failed to convince the Tribunal that the case should be heard by a jury, specifically the jury which acquitted Michael Jackson. But the members of Saddam’s legal team who haven’t been murdered yet intend to press on with his defence. It is understood Hussein will call a number of witnesses to attest to his good character, including his notorious cousin Chemical Ali, onetime Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf and an American business partner, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Although he faces the death penalty, Saddam does not expect to be executed because he still claims to be the President of Iraq and has said that, if convicted, he will pardon himself.