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Published: Tuesday, 10/3/2006

Verdict in Saddam trial to be postponed


BAGHDAD, Iraq The Iraqi court trying Saddam Hussein postponed the verdict in the former leader s first trial and said today that the judges are considering the possibility of recalling some witnesses.

The court is due to convene Oct. 16 for the first time since it adjourned July 27 to allow the five-judge panel to consider their verdicts against Saddam and seven co-defendants on charges of crimes against humanity for a crackdown against Shiites in the 1980s.

A verdict had been expected on that day, but court spokesman Raid Juhi said the Oct. 16 session will not be for the verdict. It s for the judges review of the evidence. Juhi said he could not say when the verdict would be issued.

Saddam and his co-defendants face possible execution by hanging if found guilty in the charges, connected to a crackdown on Shiites in the town of Dujail launched in 1982.

That has raised concerns that such a verdict could stoke the Sunni-led insurgency and rampant sectarian violence that has plagued the country. Minority Sunnis were dominant under Saddam but lost power to Shiites, who comprise some 60 percent of Iraq s population, after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 and tensions between the Islamic sects have been on the rise.

The judges have been reviewing the evidence and testimony from the nine-month trial to determine whether it is complete or is lacking, Juhi told The Associated Press.

If they decide it is lacking, they could call back witnesses or review other evidence. Juhi would not say whether he believed this would likely happen. It is up to the judges to issue a decision on this, he said.

A second trial of the former Iraqi dictator and six co-defendants began Aug. 21 on genocide charges for their alleged roles in a bloody 1987-1988 crackdown against Kurdish rebels.

It was adjourned last week until Oct. 9 after a stormy session during which the chief judge expelled all of the defendants.

Earlier in the week, Chief Judge Mohammed Oreibi al-Khalifa had replaced the previous chief judge, who was accused of being too soft on the former president.

Saddam s attorneys responded by boycotting the proceedings, and al-Khalifa put the trial on hold in order to give Saddam and the other defendants time to convince their lawyers to end the boycott or to confer with new ones.

Read more in later editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com.

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