Baghdad, June 7 – Iraq”s government backed away on Tuesday from recent claims that Saddam Hussein could be tried within weeks, saying it was up to the country”s independent Special Tribunal to decide when he goes to court.
Senior officials, including the president and the prime minister”s spokesman, had said in the past week that Saddam could be tried within two months and indicated he could be the first member of the former regime to appear in court.
The announcements appeared designed to show that the government was making progress in bringing the former president to justice more than two years after his overthrow, and amid growing pressure from Iraqis for a trial.
But the Special Tribunal, an independent body set up in late 2003 by U.S.-backed authorities, issued a statement reiterating its independence and saying no date had been set for any trial.
"There is no exact scheduled time…to achieve the work according to the independence of the Iraqi Special Tribunal."
"Any appointment to start the trials belongs to the decision of the judges who will take a look at the claims against the accused after finishing the investigation procedures," Reuters quoted the statement as saying.
"The IST wants to ensure that its media office is in charge of all the press and release announcements regarding the IST."
A tribunal spokesman also denied reports that a decision had been made to focus on just a dozen of the crimes of which Saddam is accused, in order to bring him to trial more quickly.
At a news conference on Tuesday, Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari”s spokesman backed away from his earlier comments on the timing of Saddam”s trial.
"A fixed date has not been presented," Laith Kubba said. "(The Special Tribunal) assured me that they have a media official and they wish that information is given by them directly. I refer you to the spokesman for the Tribunal."