Al Hakim To Ash Sharq Al Awsat Saddam

Al-Hakim to ash-Sharq al-Awsat: Saddam must be Tried in Iraq

In an interview with the London daily ash-Sharq al-Awsat, Shiite leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, current president of the Interim Governing Council, insisted that Saddam must be tried in Iraq by a war crimes tribunal. Apparently there has been some sort of controversy in the Shiite community about the idea of having an essentially secular tribunal judge Saddam, rather than throwing the task to the Shiite jurists in Najaf. That is the only explanation I can come up with for al-Hakim’s defensiveness on the issue. He said, that ‘this tribunal does not need support from the [Shiite] religious leadership [Sistani], “and we have not heard of any special opinion [on his part] in regard to this subject. The Tribunal has the same character as the rest of the Iraqi institutions, and the religious leadership tries to stand with the rebuilding of Iraq and its just and outstanding institutions throughout Iraq. The religious leadership has no negative view of the tribunal.”

Commenting on Sistani’s call for direct elections, al-Hakim said that the IGC would attempt to honor the principle involved, which was that the voice of the people should be heard. He implied that there were other possible ways for Sistani’s objectives to be attained than direct elections, and that the IGC would explore these options.

Sistani has in recent days exchanged letters with Paul Bremer, head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, about the issue of how elections will be conducted this spring.

Bremer is reportedly worried that the IGC is not moving toward those elections fast enough to meet the July 1 deadline for turn-over of sovereignty to a transitional government, and is requesting a doubling of CPA employees to 2,000. The State Department, however, does not have another 1,000 Middle East experts, and many of the ones it has are being vetoed by Undersecretary of Defense for Planning, Douglas Feith, on grounds of their lack of sympathy for Neoconservative philosophy.

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