- The Washington Times - Monday, July 10, 2006

The judges and the attorneys for both the prosecution and the defense in the trial of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein agree on only one thing — that the experience has changed their lives forever, according to participants in the trial.

The judges “knew that being shown on TV during the [Iraqi High Tribunal] trials would change their lives, that they and their families would be targets of violence both during the trial and in the years that follow. They seemed both enthusiastic and at the same time a bit concerned,” said Michael Scharf, a Case Western Reserve University law professor who trained Iraqi judges for the trial.

Yet, Mr. Scharf said, the judges are showing a “great deal of bravery” and are “absolutely committed to achieving justice for atrocity crimes in Iraq.”

Mr. Scharf said the high level of publicity in the trial had put pressure on everyone involved.

“What was truly amazing about the Saddam trial is that it was televised gavel-to-gavel in Iraq, and the international media broadcast daily highlights with translations,” he said.

He pointed out that although the trial was not unfair, it was “among the messiest in history,” and each mistake was “made for all to see — and for TV commentators to dissect.”

David Crane, former U.N. undersecretary-general and ex-chief prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, said publicity is key to the trial’s effect on the formation of the new Iraqi state.

“The real point … is how the trial is perceived by Iraqis. Sure, there are some Saddam loyalists who will never be satisfied, and also many victims who will want revenge — which in that part of the world is an eye for an eye. But, if they think justice was done, they might not be happy with the verdict, but they will be able to live with it,” he said.

Not only do the judges have to deal with publicity and the pressure of ensuring justice in a crucial trial, but many fear for their safety, specialists said.

Yesterday, Chief Judge Raouf Abdel-Rahman expressed regret over the latest killing of a defense attorney and acknowledged the risk to all officers of the court, the Associated Press reported from Baghdad.

Three members of the defense team have been killed since the beginning of the trial in October. The defense team, which was scheduled to begin closing arguments yesterday, instead announced a boycott of the proceedings over the abduction and fatal shooting on June 21 of defense attorney Khamis al-Obeidi.

Members of the defense team last month enumerated their demands, including family relocation, U.S. military protection, emergency telephone access for military protection, and funding for living and working expenses.

“Representing truth and justice against those who do not respect the law and wish to bend it to fit their political ambitions is always frightening,” Curtis Doebbler, a member of the defense team, wrote in an e-mail to The Washington Times.

Yesterday, Saddam sent a letter to the chief judge, saying, “There’s a deliberate attempt to convict us as a result of a malicious American desire, aided by disgusting collaborators in Iraq.” He said the trial was unfair and the tribunal unlawful, according to AP.

A court spokesman said that the judge dismissed the defense team’s demands and that the court would appoint new lawyers to deliver closing statements if necessary, AP reported.

Saddam and seven other defendants, including his half-brother, face death by hanging in the execution of more than 140 Shi’ites in Dujail, Iraq, in 1982. Saddam faces a second trial, set to begin mid-August, on charges of killing thousands of Kurds in northern Iraq in the 1980s.

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