Saddam's trial divides Iraqi opinion

The trial of Saddam Hussein has created a rift between those calling for his execution and those defending him and calling for his release.

Last Modified: 15 Jul 2004 09:05 GMT
Iraqi Shia Muslims are calling for Saddam's execution

The trial of Saddam Hussein has created a rift between those calling for his execution and those defending him and calling for his release.

The televised appearance of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in a makeshift court on 1 July galvanised members of groups who support and oppose him.

In recent days, Iraqi cities have continued to witness anti- and pro-Saddam rallies.

Karbala, located in central Iraq, saw an Iraqi Shia Muslim demonstration on Monday calling for Saddam's execution and venting anger at those Arab lawyers rallying to defend him in a public trial.

Iraqi Shia Muslims poured on to the streets of al-Sadr City in Baghdad also demanding the execution of Saddam Hussein.

In Tehran, Iran, Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, chairman of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), slammed Saddam Hussein's lawyers and expressed his dissatisfaction at the competition of Arab and international lawyers to defend Hussein.


"I feel sorry that there are people willing to defend a person who committed crimes against humanity and genocide," al-Hakim said.

Voices of support

However, Baquba, the mixed Sunni and Shia Muslim city, witnessed several pro-Saddam demonstrations.

Although it was not branded as a pro-Saddam neighbourhood under his rule, the city has shown strong support for him after the occupation of Iraq last year.

Baquba has witnessed several 
attacks on US occupation forces

It was reported that Saddam had hidden there for a considerable period of time before he moved to al-Dawr near his hometown Tikrit where he was taken prisoner last December.

About 200 people, guarded by masked men carrying machine guns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers, demonstrated in support of their imprisoned president.

Demonstrators chanted slogans such as: "We sacrifice our blood, our souls for you, Saddam" and "Saddam your name represents the dignity of our country".


People inside Iraq say they are confused about whether to back the trial of a leader they say has let them down, or resent a trial they say is dominated by occupation authorities.

Abd al-Wahab al-Mumayaz, a London-based Iraqi businessman, told Aljazeera.net that Saddam’s execution may do more harm than good for Iraqis.

"I can say I am a victim of Saddam Hussein's era, but his execution will leave a deep scar in the body of Iraqi national unity.

"The man still enjoys popularity among [a] considerable part of Iraqis who see him a national symbol. If he is executed, they will hold their Shia countrymen responsible for wiping out a national symbol. A dilemma will end in a civil war," al-Mumayaz said.

Divided defence panel

Division has also struck the panel of lawyers defending the former Baathist president. The media reported that there were walk-outs during meetings and accusations of self-publicity were aired.

Hussain Mjali, chairman of the Jordanian Bar Association and former defence panel member, said he does not see a point in forming a panel to defend Saddam Hussain.

"I can say I am a
victim of Saddam Hussein era, but his execution will leave a deep scar in the body
of Iraqi national unity"

Abd al-Wahab al-Mumayaz,
Iraqi businessman

"There is no legitimate judiciary in Iraq, if we go and stand in that court we are giving it the legitimacy it lacks," he said.

"I believe there should be an attack team, not a defence team. We should attack those who stole Iraq, and want to eradicate its nationalists," he told Aljazeera.net.

An Arab lawyer, who spoke under condition of anonymity, told Aljazeera.net there are members on the defence panel who want publicity for themselves.

"There are members [on] the panel who are after their self-publicity only, and turning president Saddam trial into a media topic is of no good to that cause." 

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