Legal custody of Saddam transferred to Iraqis
Legal custody of Saddam Hussein and 11 other former officials was transferred to the Iraqis on Wednesday, an international official said.
The defendants were informed individually of their rights, said the official, according to The AP. An Iraqi judge witnessed the proceedings.
On Tuesday, Iraq's Prime Minister Iyad Allawi had said that the legal, but not custodial, transfer of the 12 defendants would take place Wednesday.
They are to appear in court on Thursday for a formal reading of the charges.
"The first step has happened," Salem Chalabi, the director of the Iraqi Special Tribunal that will try Saddam, told The Associated Press. "I met with him (Saddam) earlier today to explain his rights and what will happen," Chalabi conveyed.
Saddam will remain in an American-controlled jail guarded by Americans until the Iraqis are prepared to take physical custody of him.
The legal transfer means that Saddam and the others are no longer prisoners of war, but criminal defendants whose treatment will be in accordance with Iraqi law.
The "crimes against humanity" for which Saddam is to be tried include the 1988 chemical weapons attack on Kurds in Halabja, the suppression of Shiites during a 1991 uprising in southern Iraq, the 1990 invasion of Kuwait and the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.
Mouwafak al-Rubaie, Iraq's new national security adviser, noted Wednesday that the Iraqi Special Tribunal would be able to impose the death penalty. According to him, Saddam will not be allowed to turn the trial into "a political game," by calling witnesses such as U.S. President George Bush or British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
"Saddam Hussein will be under the legal control of Iraqi law," he told British Broadcasting Corp. radio. "He is going to be tried according to the Iraqi criminal code."
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