London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Senior officials in Saddam Hussein’s former regime will remain under investigation, despite being released by the U.S. military in December, Raid Juhi, an Iraqi Special Tribunal judge revealed Tuesday.
Eight senior officials in the former Iraqi government were released on 19 December, including two former ministers. US military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Barry Johnson said Tuesday, “The eight high-value detainees had been freed a month ago, in total accord with the Iraqi government.” He added, “Most were detained for war crimes or testimonies that can be used against the former regime.”
Juhi disputed these claims and indicated, ‘As a tribunal, we did not release any members of the former regime. Officially, we consider those who have been freed as fugitives from justice wanted for questioning, especially as some of those released are wanted by our tribunal for crimes against humanity and human rights breaches.”
“We were not informed by any official party and did not receive any documents that indicated several senior officials in the former regime were released. However, we learned about this in a non-official and illegal manner. This is why we consider them fugitives from justice and we will investigate them and arrest them with all available means. One way of doing this is to ask Interpol to detain them and hand them over to the Iraqi legal authorities.”
The freed former high-ranking officials included Humam Abdul Khaleq, a former Minister of Higher Education and the former head of the Iraqi nuclear authority and Ahmad Murtada Ahmad, a former Transport Minister. Abdul Khaleq was the fourth most-wanted official in Saddam’s regime, according to a list containing 55 names, the U.S. military announced in the aftermath of the March 2003 invasion of Iraq .
Among the former detainees are Sheikh Sattam al Kaoud and Aseel Tabra, Saddam’s representative to the Iraqi Olympic Committee, Huda Ammash and Rihab Taha, two weapons experts involved in biological weapons project.
Juhi also expressed his hope that Saddam’s trial with seven of his most trusted men which will resume on 24 January, we be a “legal trial and not a marathon”, indicating that the investigation committee has completed its investigation with the deposed president in most cases for which he is not standing trial.
“The last person to be questioned, three days ago, was Sabawi Ibrahim al Hassan, Saddam’s second half-brother who was the General Security director, for his role in human rights breaches,” he added.