Trials scheduled to begin soon for some of Hussein's top-ranking officials

Premier warns violence could rise after elections

December 15, 2004|By Alissa J. Rubin | Alissa J. Rubin,LOS ANGELES TIMES

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraq's interim prime minister announced yesterday that some of the former regime's top-ranking officials would go on trial next week and warned that violence could worsen after next month's elections.

In a speech to the interim National Assembly, Prime Minister Ayad Allawi made only a brief reference to the start of the trials.

But in the past he has said that Abid Hassan Majid, often known as "Chemical Ali" for his role in poisonous gas attacks on ethnic Kurds, is one of the first likely to be tried.

"The trial will begin next week of the symbols of the former regime who will appear in succession to ensure that justice is done in Iraq," Allawi told the assembly here.

Hussein, 11 top aides

Former President Saddam Hussein, who was captured by U.S. forces a year ago, is being held along with 11 of his top aides. The 12 former officials appeared in court in July for the first time to hear preliminary charges leveled against them.

It is not believed that Hussein would be among those whose trials are slated to start soon, according to several experts on the Iraqi courts.

At least two other government officials appeared to be unaware of any details concerning plans to start the trials in the next few days.

Mowaffak Rubaie, the national security adviser, said he was not sure how many trials might begin.

He added that the trials were important for the nation's "psychological healing" but added that "they need to be done right, we need to show the world that these trials meet international standards."

This week, Rubaie was quoted as saying Hussein's trial was unlikely to start before 2006.

Baktiar Amin, the human rights minister, said in response to questions from Agence France-Presse news service that he thought the trials were beginning in March.

War crimes trials are complicated, and it is especially difficult to establish who was responsible for command decisions that led to atrocities. The trial of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in The Hague has been going on for more than two years.

Foreign assistance

Iraq, which had no judicial framework for war crimes trials, has been going through a deliberate process of attempting to prepare for them. Teams of Iraqi lawyers and judges backed up by more than 75 foreign experts, many from the United States and Britain, have been helping to prepare the evidence and organize the cases.

Allawi's comments came as he prepared to kick off his election campaign.

He planned to announce his slate of candidates today and is widely expected to run with interim Iraqi President Ghazi Ajil Yawer, a Sunni tribal sheik, and others for seats in the Iraqi parliament.

The campaign period officially begins today, when all political groups must file their list of candidates and voter registration in Iraq is completed. Registration of Iraqi citizens outside the country will be held next month.

More violence

Although the election is moving forward and people expect it to be held on time, violence yesterday again suggested that the country remains far from quiet.

Early in the day, a car bomb exploded at the same entrance to the Green Zone government compound where a blast had struck the day before.

Seven people were believed to have been killed and 12 were injured in yesterday's attack. At least seven people were killed at the same site Monday.

All the victims in both attacks were Iraqi.

In his remarks to the National Assembly, Allawi suggested that even the balloting late next month would not end the violence.

"The terrorist operations will not end after elections but might escalate," he said.

However, he said the number of daily attacks has dropped from 80 to 50 since U.S. and Iraqi troops seized the city of Fallujah from insurgents last month.

"The terrorist attacks are going in two directions: The first is that they are trying to scare government officials and their families, and the second is hitting the economic infrastructure so that there is chaos."

In other developments yesterday:

Gunmen killed a provincial council member in the northern city of Mosul, a health official said. Dr. Sinan Salem Salo was killed in western Mosul's Shefa neighborhood while leaving work at the Jumhouri Hospital where he heads the emergency unit, provincial Health Ministry official Dr. Rabie Yassin said.

The U.S. military discovered eight more bodies in Mosul, bringing the number of bodies found there since Nov. 10 to more than 150. Initially peaceful after the U.S.-led invasion in Iraq, Mosul has become a worrisome trouble spot since the American and Iraqi militaries invaded the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah in November.

Allawi said that on Monday, police killed an aide to Jordanian militant leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi named Hassan Ibrahim Farhan al-Zaid. Allawi described the man as a "terror leader."

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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