BAGHDAD (AFP) -The Iraqi judge presiding over the trial of Saddam Hussein has submitted his resignation after criticism over his running of the court, an official said, in the latest drama to hit the case.
The news came Sunday as a team of foreign monitors assessing Iraq’s general election, held exactly a month ago, decided against publishing an interim report on its findings on Sunday and will instead release a final report on Thursday.
The probe into the December 15 vote and a raft of complaints of ballot fraud has delayed the release of final results and the formation of Iraq’s first permanent government since the fall of Saddam in April 2003.
Rizkar Mohammed Amin, a chief judge on the Iraqi High Tribunal trying the deposed dictator and seven co-accused, handed in his notice on January 10, an official close to the tribunal said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Efforts are underway to try to get him to change his mind,” he said.
“The resignation has not yet been accepted,” the official told AFP.
Amin’s resignation must be accepted by the president of the three-chamber tribunal and Iraq’s cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari.
If it is, he will become the second judge on the five-strong panel trying Saddam to quit since the trial began on October 19.
Amin, a Kurd, wants to step down because of strong criticism by politicians at the way he has allowed the former president and his seven co-defendants to speak out in court and disrupt proceedings, the official said.
The eight men are charged with ordering the massacre of more than 140 Shiites from the town of Dujail following a 1982 assassination attempt on the former Iraqi leader.
While the trial has taken up only seven courtroom days since it started on October 19, Amin has come under pressure, both at home and abroad, for allowing what critics see as theatrics by the defence counsels and the co-accused.
Saddam and his half-brother Barzan Ibrahim Tikriti have repeatedly sought to disrupt proceedings, with the former Iraqi leader alleging he was tortured in detention by US forces.
But supporters of Amin say he has sought to give the defendants, who face a possible death penalty, as much leeway as possible in a bid to ensure the process is seen as fair.
Saddam’s leading defence counsel, Khalil Dulaimi, welcomed the news of Amin’s resignation offer, but said it made no difference to the case as the defence team considered the court illegal.
The next hearing in the case is scheduled for January 24.
Away from the judicial drama, political parties representing Iraq’s Shiite majority, Sunni Arab minority and the Kurds were still waiting to learn the results of the country’s parliamentary election.
Initial indications showed that Shiite parties came out on top, but final results have been delayed by inquiries into a raft of complaints by Sunni-backed and secular parties of election fraud.
An independent team of monitors has been checking the election results as well as the complaints and how Iraq’s electoral commission handled them.
It was due to issue an interim report on its findings on Sunday.
But Mazen Chouaib, director of field operations for the International Mission for Iraqi Elections, said the group “has decided to issue its findings all at once on January 19 because the work has progressed so quickly.”
A positive assessment by the experts will give further credibility to the electoral commission, which has faced criticism of being biased.
The commission said on Saturday it would wait for the monitors’ report before revealing final, but uncertified results of the election.
It is doubtful that the ultimate certified results will be known before the end of the month because of an appeals’ period and other technical matters.
In other developments, Iraq’s justice ministry said 509 detainees from three jails were being released on Sunday after they had been cleared of terrorist-related charges. There are currently about 10,000 detainees held in Iraq.