Iraq's interim government has taken legal custody of Saddam Hussein and 11 other top officials of his deposed regime.

U.S. authorities transferred legal custody of the men Wednesday, but the U.S. military will continue to guard them.

The transfer means the former Iraqi leader and officials are now criminal defendants under Iraqi law. They are no longer prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions.

The men are to appear in court Thursday for a formal reading of charges expected to include genocide and crimes against humanity.

Meanwhile, in a newspaper interview published Wednesday, Iraq's president, Ghazi al-Yawar, said the government has decided to reinstate the death penalty for certain crimes. He said the decision will be formally announced in the "near future."