London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Judge Raid Juhi, the president of the tribunal investigating former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and his regime”s senior officials, has stated that the tribunal”s criminal office will determine in the next 24 hours the date for the first session of the trials and said the trials are likely to be held one month from now.
Judge Juhi, who had investigated the murder of independent Shiite cleric Abd-al-Majid al-Khu”i, the secretary general of the Imam Al-Khu”i Foundation, also stressed that the "decision to arrest the hardline Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr on the charge of masterminding the attack in April 2003 remains valid" and "the case has been referred to the Central Criminal Court."
Juhi said in an interview with "Asharq al-Awsat" that his tribunal has finished investigating two cases that convict Saddam Hussein and his regime”s senior officials of committing crimes against humanity "and we have referred the files of two major cases to the Special Criminal Tribunal. These are the Al-Anfal case and the 1991 crimes one (the crushing of those involved in the uprising). The majority of the regime”s senior officials are defendants in these two cases."
He added: "There are other cases that we are still investigating and our tribunal has completed one year of the timetable set for it. We are working to a precise schedule despite the large number of witnesses, documents, and papers that we are examining very closely."
Juhi pointed out that Saddam Hussein is involved in all the cases referred to the Special Criminal Tribunal and said: The deposed president always tries at the start of the investigation sessions to deny the charges we make against him and tries to defend himself but then admits them when we confront him with the facts, evidence, and the testimonies of witnesses. He added that Tariq Aziz, Barzan al-Tikriti (Saddam”s half brother), and Ali Hasan al-Majid have all confessed against Saddam and testified against him and Al-Majid said, "everything he implemented was on the orders of Saddam himself."
The Iraqi judge called the deposed president "cooperative" and said, "We as a tribunal and a judge treat him as an ordinary defendant, like all the others accused of crimes against humanity. We call him as a defendant by his name only (Saddam) and he answers (Mr. Judge). He did not object to the questions he was asked other than denying some of the charges or facts which he later admitted when confronted with the evidence." He noted that Saddam Hussein arrives at the tribunal handcuffed like other defendants and wears his ordinary suit. He said Saddam has not complained about his jail conditions, which are even good in terms of health and social care and has not come under any pressure from any party.
He went on to say "The majority of the former regime”s senior officials who have been referred to the tribunal are cooperating, clarifying the facts, and answering the tribunal”s questions clearly. Some of them believe they are innocent and should not be detained."
He disclosed that Tariq Aziz (the deputy prime minister in Saddam”s regime), Sultan Hashim (the former regime”s defense minister), and Sabir al-Duri (the Iraqi intelligence chief under Saddam”s regime) are the ones cooperating most and are answering our questions calmly and legally. He added that, like any other defendant, Saddam remains stressing to the last minute his innocence despite all his confessions and the evidence and he "has full access to his lawyers and talks to them like all the other defendants who have been referred to the tribunal." He said: "There are two Western lawyers — one of them is the former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark — and a group of Arab lawyers in addition to a number of Iraqi ones who have applied to defend Saddam but have to complete the legal procedures first according to the Iraqi trials laws and the Association of Iraqi Lawyers rules so that they can be allowed to defend any defendant before the Iraqi courts."
Judge Juhi emphasized that Saddam Hussein and his regime”s senior officials "will be tried in Iraq, in the capital Baghdad, in accordance with the Special Criminal Tribunal”s law. The tribunal has the right to move to another location inside Iraq when it is extremely necessary to do so." He denied reports or demands for moving the tribunal to a European country and added this is an Iraqi tribunal that acts according to Iraqi laws. He said the trial of Saddam and his regime”s officials "will be collective because the majority of the regime”s senior officials are jointly involved in crimes." After noting that the trial would be public, he said Saddam and his officials were referred to the Special Criminal Tribunal in accordance with Article 12 of the Criminal Law. Life imprisonment or execution is the penalty for someone who is referred under this law. He added that the majority of the former regime”s officials are involved in crimes against humanity.
Juhi stressed on the other hand that his warrant for the arrest of Muqtada al-Sadr remains valid because he is charged in the crime of the assassination of Abd-al-Majid al-Khu”i on 10 April in the Imam Ali Square in Al-Najaf. The judge, who investigated the murder, said: "I issued a warrant for the arrest of Muqtada al-Sadr and a group of his followers who are accused in this crime. The warrant remains valid and the case has been referred to the Central Criminal Court." He pointed out that he had finished his investigations into this case a long time ago and said: "I do not know what the court”s procedures are and why the arrest warrant was not implemented. You have to ask the Central Criminal Court."