Iraqi officials set Oct. 19 for start of Saddam Hussein's trial

Saturday, September 3, 2005

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Iraqi authorities have set Oct. 19 as the date for the start of the trial of Saddam Hussein, an official said Friday.

The Iraqi official said authorities wanted the trial to start soon after Iraqis finish the referendum on the new constitution Oct. 15.

Many Sunni Arabs oppose the constitution, and a trial of the former dictator, a Sunni, could further worsen sectarian relations.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to make the formal announcement, said Saddam's legal team was being informed of the date. Saddam's Iraqi lawyer, Khalil al-Dulaimi, could not be reached because his cell phone was shut off.

A Western diplomat, who also asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of commenting on a foreign judicial system's plans, said he doubted the trial would start on that date.

"It's posturing," he said, adding that many factors would determine the start of the trial. He would not elaborate.

Saddam and three co-defendants will stand trial for the 1982 massacre of Shiites in Dujail, a town north of Baghdad, after a failed assassination attempt. Saddam could receive the death penalty.

Saddam is expected to face about a dozen trials for alleged crimes committed by his regime, including the gassing of Kurds in Halabja and the 1991 suppression of a Shiite uprising in the south.

Other co-defendants in the case are Barazan Ibrahim, intelligence chief at the time and Saddam's half brother; former Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, at the time a Baath party official in Dujail.

Saddam is expected to face about a dozen trials for alleged crimes committed by his regime, including the gassing of Kurds in Halabja and the 1991 suppression of a Shiite uprising in the south.

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