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IN THE NEWS - Week in Iraq - 2004-07-03

Broadcast: July 3, 2004

This is Bob Doughty with In the News, in VOA Special English.

This week brought events many Iraqis never thought they would see. On Thursday, Saddam Hussein appeared before an Iraqi court. So did eleven of his former top officials. The ousted president and the others were charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes. They were in power for twenty-four years.

The charges involve the suppression of Shiite and Kurdish rebellions. They also involve the war with Iran during the nineteen-eighties, and the invasion of Kuwait in nineteen-ninety.

Saddam Hussein argued that he is still president.

Among the others charged is Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as “Chemical Ali.” He reportedly gave orders to use chemical weapons against Kurdish separatists in nineteen-eighty-eight.

The new temporary government in Iraq took legal control of the twelve men on Wednesday. They are no longer considered prisoners of war. They are now criminal suspects under Iraqi law. But the American military will continue to guard them. They will be tried before a special Iraqi court set up in December by the former governing council. The trials are not expected to start until next year.

Lawyers for Saddam Hussein say they worry about the fairness of any trial under the present government. They say the trial should be delayed until Iraqis elect a permanent government. The current leaders are to organize elections for a national assembly in January.

Some people say the former dictator should be tried by an international court. American officials say international legal experts will observe the trials to make sure they are fair.

Among the decisions that Iraqi leaders must make are these: Should foreign defense lawyers be permitted to work in Iraq? Should the trials be broadcast? And should Iraq again permit death sentences?

The temporary prime minister, Iyad Allawi, has promised that the trials will be fair. He says the men will be given legal rights that they denied Iraqi citizens under their rule. Mister Allawi was sworn into office on Monday, when the United States returned the right for Iraq to govern itself. The ceremony took place two days early, for security reasons.

More than one-hundred Iraqis and Americans have died in recent attacks in Iraq. On Friday, rockets hit two hotels in Baghdad. Damage was minor and no one was seriously hurt.

More than one-hundred-fifty-thousand foreign troops are in Iraq. Most are American. Late this week, Yemen and Jordan offered to send troops to Iraq. They would be the first Arab nations to do so.

And the prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as part of the American-led war on terrorism won an important ruling this week. The Supreme Court ruled Monday that Americans and foreigners held at the base have the right to have their cases heard in federal courts.

In the News, in VOA Special English, was written by Cynthia Kirk. This is Bob Doughty.