Saddam trial postponed till Sunday
The eight session of the trial of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has been postponed once again until January 29 due to the absence of several witnesses. The trial was originally scheduled to resume on Tuesday.
According to Raed Jouhi, spokesman for the court, many of the witnesses had yet to return from the Haj pilgrimage made by Muslims to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
"Some witnesses are abroad, so the 1st Trial Chamber decided to delay the session until Sunday, Jan. 29," he said according to Reuters.
It was unclear whether or not the court was aware of the problem, as court officials announced on Monday that hearings were to proceed as scheduled on Tuesday.
Many were kept waiting for hours for the session to begin before being informed of the delay.
Trial was to presided over by new judge
The trial was to be presided over by a new judge, Raouf Abdul Rahman. Rahman, a Kurd, replacing the former head judge in the trial, Rizgar Amin.
Judge Amin had stepped down from the position after complaining of government interference in the trial, according to the BBC.
Many criticized Judge Amin for being too lenient with defendants, and for allowing disorder in the court, including outbursts from defendants during the trial. However, most feel that his resignation further damaged the trial's credibility.
64-year old Rahman has reportedly not been present at earlier hearings of the trial.
Judge Rahman is expected to preside over the court on a temporary basis while efforts are underway to return former judge Amin.
The new judge is from the town of Halabja, where Saddam is also accused of killing some 5,000 Kurdish citizens in 1988 with chemical weapons.
The replacement of Judge Amin with Judge Rahman was unexpected, as Judge Said Hameesh, number two in the panel of judges, was supposed to fill the position.
Concerns that he was a member of Saddam Hussein's Baath party, however, led to the decision to appoint Judge Amin in his place.
Hussein and seven others are charged with the killing of some 150 residents of the town of Dujail in 1982. If convicted, the accused could face the death penalty.
© 2006 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)