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Iraq's New Government to Take Custody of Saddam Hussein - 2004-06-29

Iraqi Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi says his government will take legal custody of former leader Saddam Hussein on Wednesday, along with as many as 11 other senior officials of the former regime.

Announcing that Iraq would gain legal custody of the former Iraqi dictator, Prime Minister Allawi pledged that Saddam would receive the kind of trial the Iraqi dictator denied to his own people.

"Saddam will be entitled to have representation, he is entitled to appoint lawyers. And, maybe if he doesn't have the money to appoint lawyers, the government will pay the money so that he is represented well," he said. "We assure you that it will be a just trial and a fair trial unlike the trials that he inflicted on the Iraqi people."

Mr. Allawi says Saddam will go before a special Iraqi investigative judge as early as Thursday, where charges against him will be formally presented. The charges are expected to include genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The interim prime minister said up to one million Iraqis disappeared under the Saddam Hussein regime, and that hundreds of thousands of Iraqis are believed to have been buried in mass graves.

While Iraq will gain legal custody of Saddam Hussein and the other officials on Wednesday, they will remain in the physical custody of coalition forces until Iraq's correctional services can guarantee their safety and assure they will be detained in a secure location.

Mr. Allawi said Saddam will be tried by a special tribunal that was formed several months ago to, among other things, investigate and prosecute those believed responsible for war crimes.

However, he said it will likely be several months before the trial actually begins. He promised the proceedings will be open "for all to see." And, he said some suspects who remain at large will be tried in absentia.

The former Iraqi leader was taken into custody by U.S. forces in December, north of Baghdad near his home town of Tikrit.

Mr. Allawi said he is looking forward to the day Saddam and the other former regime leaders face justice.