Hussein’s ‘Swift’ Trial Still Delayed

From Associated Press

In the year since he was captured and hustled away to a secret location, Saddam Hussein has taken up gardening, undergone a hernia operation and written poetry that one visitor describes as “rubbishy.”

What he has not done is meet with any of the 20 lawyers who say they represent him.

And with the country in the grips of an insurgency that remains strong, predicting when Iraq’s most famous prisoner will be tried is no easier now than it was on the day he was pulled from his hiding spot in a “spider hole” near his hometown of Tikrit.

When Hussein first appeared before an Iraqi court in July, some officials predicted a swift trial.


Then they said by the end of the year.

Now, they expect it no earlier than the beginning of 2006, said Iraq’s national security advisor, Mowaffak Rubaie.

“This is going to be probably the trial of the century and we have to get it right,” Rubaie said. “We can’t suddenly try him and sentence him to either life in prison or whatever, execute him 100 times as some people want to do.”

American officials with the Department of Justice’s Regime Crimes Liaison Office are advising the Iraqi Special Tribunal on the process of bringing Hussein to trial.

The United States paid the tribunal’s budget of $75 million to cover costs through next year.

Trainers face a dearth of qualified Iraqi prosecutors, defense lawyers and judges.

If proper attorneys are found, they take a new kind of risk -- threats from both the insurgents, believed to be mostly Sunni Muslims like Hussein, or others trying to stymie the trial.

Some Iraqis claim the process has been politicized.

The court lost a partner when the United Nations refused to help train judges because the world body will not cooperate with courts that can impose the death penalty.


In the meantime, Hussein receives regular visits from the Red Cross, which passes letters from him to his family.

He gets out of his 12-by-15-foot cell twice a day for recreation, which includes exercising and tending plants, said Rubaie, who visited him three months ago.

Hussein underwent a hernia operation and his blood pressure varies, a U.S. official said.

He also has an enlarged prostate, which isn’t an immediate concern.

He is said to be writing a novel, “Get Out, You Damned,” excerpts of which have appeared in a London-based Arab newspaper, and has written poetry.

“I can tell you one thing, they’re really the most rubbishy poems on Earth,” Rubaie said. “Even I could write poems in English better than he could in Arabic.”