More a publicity stunt that a legal trial, the play is being directed by the defendant and not the prosecutor, as is usually the case. Many have been asking how the court has allowed the person in the dock to take charge and transform the proceedings into a showcase.
So far, the trial has been transparent and fair. Perhaps, this is what its designers had in mind when they welcomed the world media and provided them with a great televised spectacle. The political message behind this legal experiment is that the new Iraq gives full rights to even the biggest murderer in its history, to defend, argue and demand, with the judge giving in when he sees his demands to be acceptable. The new Iraqi government’s enemy number one, Saddam Hussein, sat comfortably in the dock and stood elegantly, attacked witnesses and lawyers, criticized the government, derided the world’s only superpower and its military guarding the courthouse and made his voice heard in all corners of the globe.
If this was the intended message, it has certainly reached its audience. However, if it was a hastily arranged plan, its authors have lost the first round to Saddam who has fared rather well, irrespective of the heinous crimes he is being tried for. I do not believe that any Iraqi, even those who support him, believe his claim to have never hit a single Iraqi with his hand. Of course, he might have assaulted them with both hands or used more painful means!
Many, from both camps, have ridiculed the trial. Saddam, with his theatrical ways, has used the trial as an election broadcast, despite his protestations to the contrary. He also challenged Judge Rizkar Amin by mentioning the Quran, the glory of Iraq and its people who he called on to fight the occupation. While his use of colorful language might appeal to his supporters, it will not win him the respect of the judges or release him from jail.
With its different elements, a scornful Saddam in the dock, crying witnesses and a patient judge, the trial marked a unique event in the Arab world. At times, it was hijacked and transformed into political celebration of Saddam and his aides, which seldom occurs even in the most open and forgiving of courts.
I call on all parties to enjoy this trial as we do not want to deprive the toppled president from his right to self- defense or provide the current regime with the opportunity to execute him behind closed doors away from the eyes of the world.
The new Iraqi government should be pleased if it really intended to implement a transparent system that will open the door for further trials and respects human rights while signaling the advent of a new era by trying Saddam.