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BAGHDAD: Saddam Hussein, who brutalised Iraqis for decades, said good morning and sought to ask some questions when the United States handed him over to Iraqi justice.
Saddam, who was captured hiding near his hometown of Tikrit in December, looked in good health as he appeared before an Iraqi judge in the first legal step towards a trial for the cruelties he inflicted during his 35 years of power.
"Saddam said good morning and asked if he could ask some questions," Salem Chalabi, a lawyer leading the work of a tribunal that will try the former dictator, said.
"He was told he should wait until tomorrow," said Chalabi, who was in the courtroom where Saddam and 11 of his former lieutenants were turned over to Iraqi legal custody.
However, many of the other former Iraqi officials were nervous and agitated, said Chalabi, who has received numerous death threats since taking on the task of helping amass evidence against Saddam and preparing a special tribunal to try him.
Saddam, 67, is accused by Iraqis of torturing and killing hundreds of thousands of people with the help of officials in his Baath party. Saddam became president in 1979, but had already been Iraq's strongman since a Baathist coup in 1968.
His former lieutenants appeared nervous and some were hostile as they were told they would be charged later today.
Justice Minister Ahmad Baqer said Kuwait University law professor Mohammad Bouzabar had been chosen to represent the country and would sit on committees belonging to a special Iraqi tribunal set up to try Saddam and top aides.
Original News SourceThe prospective lawyers of Saddam Hussein in the Jordanian capital Amman said earlier this week that none of the evidence matters. Their legal firm says it has been given a power of attorney to act on behalf of Saddam's wife. "His excellency Saddam Hussein is still the legitimate President of Iraq," Mohammed Rashdan from the firm said in a statement.
His colleague Osama Ghazzawi said the defence would challenge the legality of the proceedings. "Clearly the invasion was illegal because it was not condoned by the Security Council, and an arrest and a trial that are the result of an illegal act cannot be legal themselves."
He doubted, though, that his client would get a fair trial in Iraq. "It will be a show trial, we are even afraid for our lives to go and defend him," he said.