Saddam's ex-aides pliant in the dock

On a day when Saddam Hussein made his first court appearance, 11 of his erstwhile top aides also faced an Iraqi judge.

    Eleven top aides including Tariq Aziz are facing trial

    While Saddam stayed belligerent throughout his 25-minute hearing and left the court with a smirk, his aides showed respect for the judge, some addressing him politely and even expressing satisfaction to have had their day in court.

    The 11 - including Ali Hassan al-Majid, better known as Chemical Ali; Tariq Aziz, the former foreign minister, and Saddam's half brothers Watban and Barzan al-Tikriti - were taken one-by-one into court for quick 10-minute appearances.

    Like Saddam, they were dressed in cheap suits and open-necked shirts, bought off the rack for them by an American warrant officer. Some of them, like Aziz, remained chained around the waist during the hearing.

    Laugh

    But unlike Saddam, they all signed the papers put before them by the judge, acknowledging their rights before the court, and most politely made requests for lawyers.

    Unlike Saddam, the 11 aides were
    more complaint

    Abid Hamid Mahmoud al-Tikriti, Saddam's one-time secretary, even managed to raise a laugh unintentionally. Asked who he'd like to represent him, he replied Malik al-Hassan, who unknown to the defendant was recently appointed Iraq's justice minister.

    Ali Hassan al-Majid, accused of some of the worst crimes during Saddam's rule, including the gassing of the Kurds in Halabja in 1988 and the suppression of a 1991 Shia rebellion, entered the courtroom using a stick, the result of diabetes.

    According to a witness, he was sober and pensive during his hearing but polite. When read his rights, he replied: "Thank you."  When told what he was accused of, he said he was happy with the accusations "because I am innocent of them."

    After their appearance, all 11 were herded together and taken back to where they are being held, separate from one another, in an undisclosed location.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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