10/19/2005, 00.00
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Saddam Hussein set to face Special Tribunal

The trial of the former Iraqi dictator accused of crimes against humanity opens today. His defence says: "The president is calm; today it's going to be formalities." Iran, meanwhile, has sent Baghdad its own list of accusations against the rais.

Baghdad (AsiaNews/Agencies) – After 22 months of detention, Saddam Hussein will go on trial today to answer to charges of crimes against humanity. Khalil al-Dulaimi, the lawyer of the former dictator, claims his client is "calm and confident". Hussein will appear before the Iraqi Special Tribunal (IST) on charges related to one of the many massacres which took place during his 30-year rule: the massacre of 143 men in the Shi'ite village of Dujail, 60km north of Baghdad on 9 July 1982. Seven of his associates and accomplices will appear with him before the judges in a palace in the fortified Green Zone, all charged with the same crime in varying degrees. The massacre was ordered after an attempt on Saddam's life in the same year.

The lawyers of Saddam, who persists in declaring himself as the true president of Iraq, said proceedings will be limited to one hearing, "the time to read the charges and to launch the trial". The defence, guided by Dulaimi, will immediately ask for an adjournment, citing "illegitimacy".

According to sources within the IST, the trial will be postponed by some weeks, probably until after legislative elections on 15 December. If his liability for the crime is proven, Saddam risks hanging even before he is called to answer for greater massacres of Kurds and Shi'ites.

Meanwhile, yesterday Iran formulated its own formal charges against the former Iraqi dictator and dispatched them to the Baghdad government. The charges include genocide and the use of chemical weapons against Iranian civilians in the war between the two countries which lasted from 1980 to 1988. According to the Iranian Foreign Affairs minister, "there is enough evidence to prove that Saddam violated international treaties during the conflict." Tehran had declared itself to be contrary to the US-led war against Saddam in 2003 but was much in favour of his downfall.

Yesterday hundreds of people took to the streets of Tikrit Saddam Hussein's birthplace, demonstrate on his behalf. The crowd gathered near the mosque Saddan, in the heart of the city, shouting slogans in support of the deposed president and asking for the immediate withdrawals of charges leveled against him. The demonstration ended without incident.

And yesterday morning, the Baath party, now illegal, invited Iraqis to "hail" the start of the trial against Saddam Hussein with attacks against "occupation" troops.

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