Daughter calls for international trial

Agencies
Saturday, December 17, 2011

Saddam Hussein's daughter today called for an international trial for her father, as the US military announced 11 Iraqi gunmen had been killed during an attack in Samarra.

Raghad Saddam Hussein said she and her sisters did not want her father to be tried by an Iraqi court.

"He should not be tried by the [Iraqi] governing council which was put in place by occupiers ... we want an international, fair and legal trial," she told the Dubai-based Al Arabiya television network.

In a telephone interview from Jordan, she said that her father had appeared drugged in TV pictures of his arrest by US soldiers on Saturday. Her family would be appointing a lawyer to defend him, she added.

An leading Iraqi judge, Dara Nooraldin, today told Reuters that the Iraqi tribunal being set up to try the former leader will not be ready for "some months", adding that the decision on whether to give Saddam the death penalty would rest with a transitional Iraqi government, to be set up next year.

The US president, George Bush, yesterday suggested that the United Nations would have no role in bringing the former dictator to justice for nearly 30 years of human rights abuses and war crimes. He told a news conference in Washington that the US and Iraq would organise a fair and public trial for the 66-year-old.

"We will work with the Iraqis to develop a way to try him that will stand international scrutiny," he said.

The UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, has called for an international trial for Saddam and said he would not support any proceeding that included recourse to the death penalty.

Widespread attacks and protests

The capture of the former Iraqi dictator, which coalition leaders were hoping would lead to a reduction in insurgent activity in the country, has sparked a series of attacks and pro-Saddam protests in Ba'athist heartlands.

The US military announced today that US troops killed 11 Iraqi gunmen after being ambushed in a town north of Baghdad.

The attack happened yesterday afternoon in the town of Samarra, where gunmen fired on the troops with automatic weapons and rocket propelled grenades.

They caused no US casualties, a statement said, but a company commander on the scene said that the US soldiers had returned fire, killing 11 insurgents. Samarra, a volatile town in the so-called Sunni triangle that fans out to the north and west of Baghdad, was the scene of clashes between US troops and insurgents last month. US commanders initially claimed to have killed 54 guerrillas, but local residents and police reported that less than 10 people - most of them civilians - died in the firefight.

Meanwhile, three Iraqi protesters were killed by US soldiers during a pro-Saddam rally in Ramadi yesterday, a second military statement said.

The statement said that US troops were fired upon repeatedly and one soldier was wounded during the demonstration in the town west of Baghdad. Around 750 Iraqis attended the protest.

Pro-Saddam demonstrations have been held in several Iraqi towns since his capture, casting doubts on claims by the US-led coalition that the people of Iraq universally welcomed the former dictator's arrest.

Today in the former president's hometown of Tikrit, a roadside bomb injured three US soldiers, two of them seriously.

In the same northern Iraqi town yesterday, about 700 people rallied, chanting: "Saddam is in our hearts, Saddam is in our blood."

US soldiers and Iraqi policemen shouted back: "Saddam is in our jail."

In Falluja, another flashpoint of anti-US resistance west of Baghdad, crowds roamed the streets shouting pro-Saddam slogans such as: "We defend Saddam with our souls." After the Iraqi police withdrew from the streets, the crowd overran the mayor's office, a military statement said.

Since Saddam's capture, US army teams from the 1st Armoured Division have captured one high-ranking former regime figure - who has yet to be named - and that prisoner has given up a few others, a US military spokesman said.

The US military has said that the intelligence that led to the arrest came from the first transcript of Saddam's initial interrogation, and a briefcase of documents he was carrying with him at the time of his arrest.

US commanders have predicted that the guerrillas may be spurred to fight even harder in the short term in the aftermath of Saddam's arrest, perhaps only to prove that he meant little to them.

"Even if the head of the snake is cut off, the rest of the snake continues to move for a while," US Army Brigadier General Mark Hertling said. "There may be an increasing desire to execute attacks."

Interrogations of Saddam, whose current location is unknown, will focus first on gathering intelligence on the insurgency, US officials said.

The US military said it expected the ousted leader to clarify accusations that his armed forces had large arsenals of banned chemical, biological weapons and ballistic missiles, as well as an active programme aimed at producing nuclear weapons.

Those allegations were the main rationale for the US-led attack and occupation of Iraq, but no weapons have been found almost nine months after the start of the war.

· James Baker, the US presidential envoy for Iraqi debt relief, embarks on a tour of European capitals in a bid to lobby the continent's leaders for aid in reducing Iraq's $120bn foreign debt.

The former US secretary of state was today facing questions from the French president, Jacques Chirac, and the German chancellor, Gerhard Schröder. France and Germany have expressed anger that, as countries which opposed the US-led military action against Iraq, they have been excluded by the Pentagon from bidding for private reconstruction contracts.

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