Saddam handed to Iraqis to face trial

Posted in Iraq | 30-Jun-04 | Author: Patrick Cockburn| Source: The Independent

A U.S. Army soldier passes a defaced mosaic of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad, Iraq Wednesday, June 30, 2004.

Saddam Hussein was handed over to Iraqi legal custody today but will remain in jail under the control of the United States in case of an escape bid.

Iyad Allawi, Iraq's interim Prime Minister, said that Saddam Hussein would be charged along with 11 former members of his regime on Thursday although the trial might be months away.

The former Iraqi leader will be charged with the massacre of Kurds in Halabja in 1988, the invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and the Iran-Iraq war said Salem Chalabi who is running the special tribunal trying the former regime leadership.

"This government has requested the transfer of the most notorious and high profile detainees," said Mr Allawi. "These people will face justice before the special Iraqi court created in January to try members of the former regime for crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes."

The list of those to be charged alongside Saddam Hussein include Tariq Aziz, the former deputy prime minister, Ali Hassan al-Majid, who master minded the slaughter of the Kurds in 1988 and Taha Yassin Ramadan, one of Saddam Hussein's senior lieutenants. Also before the court will be two of the Iraqi leaders half-brothers.

Mr Allawi insisted that there must be "a just trial, a fair trial." He said that one million Iraqis were missing and hundreds of thousands were buried in mass graves.

Meanwhile three US Marines were killed in a bomb blast in east Baghdad. They died as the result of a road side bomb and bring to 632 the number of US soldiers killed since the start of the war. At the same time three Turkish hostages were freed though they had been threatened with decapitation.

Another group of kidnappers released a video that apparently shows militants executing an American soldier hostage with a gunshot to the head. The shooting of Specialist Keith M. Maupin, 20, was reported by Arab television, which showed a videotape of a blindfolded man identified by captors as Maupin. Al-Jazeera said the gunmen shot the man in the back of the head in front of a hole in the ground. The station did not broadcast the killing. The militants said they killed Maupin because the United States did not change its policies in Iraq.

In Turkey, officials celebrated the release of three Turkish hostages, but condemned taking hostages as against Islam. The three were contractors working for companies doing business with US forces. Their captors said they were released "for the sake of their Muslim brothers.". The abduction was claimed by Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, whose group killed American Nicholas Berg last month and South Korean Kim Sun-il last week.

Meanwhile, the father of a US Marine who was reported kidnapped by militants has issued a plea for his release. The captors of Corporal Wassef Ali Hassoun have threatened to decapitate him. "I appeal to the kidnappers and to their conscience and faith to release my son," Ali Hassoun, said from his homer in Tripoli. "He is not a fighter. I hope that they will respond favourably to my appeal," he said. "May God reward them."