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Iraqis Voice Mixed Reactions to Saddam Hussein Trial

Iraqis are voicing mixed reactions to the the mass-murder trial of their former leader, Saddam Hussein, which opened on Wednesday. While some see justice in the process and want it speeded up, others believe it is illegitimate and a sham.

The opening of the trial of deposed President Saddam Hussein was watched by many Iraqis on national television. And though it was quickly adjourned for six weeks, the trial is the subject of much discussion.

A retired 72-year-old Shiite elder, Jawad Mahdi al-Saedi, remembers the coup detat in 1968 that eventually brought Saddam Hussein to power.

He says anyone who commits a crime should have the right to a trial, but adds that somebody like Saddam Hussein does not deserve a trial and should be executed immediately.

Saddam is being tried for the mass murder of 140 villagers following an assassination attempt in 1982. He also could face trial for the deaths of tens of thousands of dissidents, many from the Shiite and Kurdish groups, and the imprisonment and torture of hundreds of thousands more.

A Sunni shop owner, Human Ahmed, says no one can say that Saddam Hussein did not commit crimes.

"He [Saddam] did lots of mistakes and big mistakes, and has to be tried. And I wish that hell be tried fairly, but not only him, all the people who killed others," he said.

Haidar al-Rawaf, 40-year-old carpet merchant, says the special Iraqi tribunal of five judges was organized by the Americans, which is denied by Iraqi and American officials.

Mr. Haidar says as a result the trial is illegitimate and it will raise the popularity of Saddam and worsen security in Iraq.

A 33-year-old Kurdish teacher named Suran Mohammed says it would have been better if the Iraqis had captured Saddam.

"All that has happened has been an American operation. They caught him. They detained him and put him on the stand, while the Iraqis are standing aside, just following orders," he said.

A Sunni graduate student in science, Salih Fadhil, says the trial is political theater.

"The Iraqi politicians and the Iraqi government just want to say that we are having and teaching Iraqis the new democracy," he said. "But I think this trial is unfair because they are the enemy and they are the judge at the same time."

Nevertheless, Husham Muhsin, a government worker, says it is good for the Iraqi people to see there is justice in the country. He says when he saw Saddam in the cage, he remembered the mass graves and the tears of the people looking for their family members.

He says the trial of Saddam Hussein will send a message to Arab leaders and Arab countries, that Iraqis have the education and the openness to deal with their oppressors.