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Saddam Hussein Appears In Iraqi Court

30 June 2004 -- Deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein appeared in a Baghdad court today, just hours after he and 11 members of his former government were transferred to the legal custody of Iraq's new interim government.

Salem Chalabi, who heads the work of the tribunal that will try Hussein, said the 67-year-old former dictator looked in good health.

Hussein and the other detainees are expected to remain in the physical custody of U.S. forces until Iraqi forces are capable of detaining them securely, in light of a request from Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.

Iraqi officials say Hussein is likely to face war crimes charges in connection with the 1988 chemical weapons attack on Kurds, the 1990 invasion of Kuwait, and the 1980-88 war with Iran.

Reuters reported today that the interim government has decided to reintroduce the death penalty, which was suspended by former U.S. civil administrator L. Paul Bremer, "with rules which comply with the norms in most countries of the world." The news agency was quoting Iraqi President Ghazi Ajil al-Yawir as cited by "Asharq al-Awsat" newspaper. Capital punishment could be meted out for a limited number of crimes under the move, including murder, terrorism, kidnapping, and rape, the news agency said.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and human rights organizations yesterday welcomed the expected transfer. Annan said Iraqis need to see that justice is being done. Human rights groups insisted the transfer is required by international law.

Hussein was captured by U.S. forces near his hometown of Tikrit in December.


[For more on the handover of power in Iraq at RFE/RL's dedicated "The New Iraq" webpage, click here.]