- The Washington Times - Friday, August 13, 2004

LONDON — Salem Chalabi, the Iraqi lawyer running the special tribunal charged with trying Saddam Hussein, claimed yesterday that some Iraqi government officials were seeking a “show trial” and quick execution of the ousted dictator.

Murder charges filed against him this week were brought by persons who object to his meticulous and rights-driven approach to Saddam’s trial, Mr. Chalabi said in an interview.

Senior Iraqi officials “have been trying to pressurize me to do things differently,” he said at his elegant London apartment in the upscale Sloane Square district.

“Ministers have told me they want Saddam dead as a way to break the hopes of the Sunni insurgents and dampen down the violence,” he said.

He added that “a very senior minister — not the prime minister himself” had told him that the tribunal must not allow Saddam and his men to use their hearings as a stage to “put on trial the current ministers, not the old regime.”

“They feel that allowing an independent, fair trial to move forward with its own dynamic at its own pace may not merge well with the political scene,” he said.

The country’s chief investigative judge issued arrest warrants on Sunday for Mr. Chalabi and his uncle, Ahmed Chalabi, a former Pentagon favorite who stands accused of possessing counterfeit Iraqi dinars.

Ahmed Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress — a multiethnic grouping of former Iraqi exiles — returned from a visit to Iran on Wednesday to face the charges.

A secular member of the majority but previously repressed Shi’ite community, Mr. Chalabi has taken shelter in northern Iraq. There, he is under the protection of one of the two main Kurdish leaders, Jalal Talabani, The Washington Times has learned.

The Iraqi government announced yesterday it was “suspending” any prosecution of the charges against Ahmed Chalabi pending further investigations.

“There was and there is now no intention to carry out any measure in this regard until finalizing the legal measures,” Interior Ministry spokesman Sabah Kadhim said.

In the London interview, Salem Chalabi sought to throw doubt on the motives and qualifications of the judge who issued the arrest warrants.

The judge, Zuhari al-Maliky, graduated as a lawyer three years ago, and was promoted to a senior judicial investigator after active lobbying by an American member of the occupation administration led by Paul Bremer, legal analysts in Baghdad said.

The leap from student to junior investigative judge to the country’s senior investigative judge has amazed the Iraqi legal profession, including numerous Iraqi lawyers who have returned to Iraq since Saddam’s ouster.

“I think he may want to leapfrog himself to prominence, and to have his own criminal court take over the prosecution of the former Iraqi regime figures,” Mr. Chalabi suggested.

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