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Iraqis Have Mixed Emotions Over War Crimes Trials


Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi says war crimes trials involving the inner circle of former leader Saddam Hussein are to begin next week. But, Iraqi citizens seem to have mixed emotions about whether now is a good time to conduct the trials. Some Iraqis say Mr. Allawi is looking for political gain before national elections next month, while others say the trials could further divide the country.

Many Iraqi citizens, like 25-year-old mother Nadi Abdel Hadi, say they are looking forward to seeing the inner circle of former leader Saddam Hussein put on trial.

Ms. Hadi says these people need to be punished because they killed and tortured many people. She says Iraqis deserve to see them on trial because, she says, this is the justice for the Iraqi people.

Ms. Hadi says she believes interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi wants to use the trials for his own political gain, in advance of national elections next month. But, she says, even if it is a game of politics, Iraqis will still get their justice.

Others say they also want justice. But, according to 22-year-old Baghdad University student Omar Shukur, the U.N. appointed interim government should not be the institution to conduct the trials.

The college student says he hopes there is a legitimate government in place when such trials begin because, without legitimacy, no one will be able to expect that the trials will be fair. He says he hopes that after national elections next month, a legitimate government will conduct the trials.

In announcing that the trials would begin next week, interim Prime Minister Allawi said justice will be served for all Iraqis.

Mr. Allawi has also announced a coalition list of candidates to vie for seats in the transitional assembly to be voted on next month. Mr. Allawi will pursue a seat in the coalition, known as the Iraqi National Accord.

Baghdad University political science professor Abdel Jabbar Abdullah says he believes Mr. Allawi is taking a political gamble in hopes of convincing the Iraqi people that he will bring them their justice. But, professor Abdullah says it is a gamble that should not be taken at this time.

"Every criminal should take his penalty under the law, and not by violence or by execution, only by the law," he said. "But, I think that the trial of the inner circle of Saddam Hussein, in this time before elections or with the time of elections, will lead the Iraqi society to more division, not to more unity."

Professor Abdullah says Iraqi society is still suffering from what he calls an "open wound" left behind by the regime of Saddam Hussein. He says war crimes trials, at this time, will only inflame the passions of Iraqis who opposed the regime, and of those who supported it.

Professor Abdullah says what the country needs most right now is unity. And, he says he believes Prime Minister Allawi is needlessly risking his political future, at the expense of possibly further dividing an already fragile Iraqi society.