Saddam's Trial Delayed to Find Defense Lawyers
ALEX CHADWICK, host:
In Baghdad, the trial of Saddam Hussein and seven co-defendants resumed today. The former Iraqi president is charged with crimes against humanity. After a short session, the judge adjourned this trial for a week to allow time to find replacements for three defense attorneys, two of whom were killed; another fled the country after he was wounded. New York Times Baghdad bureau chief John Burns, in Baghdad, watched the trial proceedings on closed-circuit television. He's with us now.
And, John, what happened today in the court session?
Mr. JOHN BURNS (The New York Times): Well, we saw Saddam at his feisty best or worst, depending on your point of view. From the American point of view, or, if you will, from the point of view of America's allies in Iraq who are conducting this trial, the good news was that for all the dispute that there was over the lawyers and whether or not defense had enough time to consult with their lawyers, whether they approved of their lawyers, you actually saw the beginnings of what's shaping up to be a trial. That's to say defendants who appear in principle to have accepted the process of trial, including Saddam himself, and that if there's going to be a trial with a death sentence possible at the end of it, they'd better have the best defense they can.
CHADWICK: In an analysis piece yesterday in the Op-Ed section of The New York Times, John, you called the trial `an undertaking as troubled as the larger American enterprise in Iraq.' What do you mean by that as regards the trial?
Mr. BURNS: Much of the dispute that surrounds this trial, much of the anger that it has generated and support that it has generated, reflects in many ways the war itself, which is to say that the divide amongst Iraqis is deeply sectarian. It's very hard to find a Sunni Arab in Iraq who do not regard this as a kangaroo court. It's equally difficult to find anybody among the Shia or Kurdish communities who do not think that this is justice long overdue, and who, indeed, if one looks at the protests that there have been in the last few days in Baghdad and Najaf and Karbala and Basra who don't think that the trial should be dispensed with and he should be taken directly to the gallows. So the trial is not healing wounds as far as we can tell at this point.
CHADWICK: Over the weekend, John, Iraqi police arrested several Sunni Arabs suspected of plotting to kill the judge who prepared Saddam Hussein's indictment. That's not the judge who's presiding over the trial. Still, it can't be good news for the judiciary there.
Mr. BURNS: It can't. and that, of course, is another way in which this trial reflects the wider situation in Iraq, which is the violence. Two of the defense lawyers have been killed. About seven or eight of the court's own personnel or relatives of those personnel have been killed. And then this latest development in Kirkuk, in the oil city of Kirkuk in the north, at dawn on Sunday, raids on two insurgent safe houses, which the police commander in Kirkuk told us yesterday produced a document in the hands of these insurgents which was an instruction from Saddam's deputy, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, the only member of his inner circle who's still at large, who evaded capture or death--an instruction from him to these insurgents to mount a bombing plot to kill Raed Juhi, who will be familiar to anybody who's watched this trial or its preliminary hearings on television as the investigative judge, who has been seen confronting Saddam Hussein since the initial appearance of Saddam in court in July of 2004, a 36-year-old judge who has stood his ground against Saddam and has already survived at least two other assassination attempts.
CHADWICK: New York Times Baghdad bureau chief John Burns, speaking with us again. John, thank you.
Mr. BURNS: It's a pleasure.
CHADWICK: I'm Alex Chadwick. NPR's DAY TO DAY continues.
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