Saddam-era officials go on trial in Iraq





Two dozen people, including some of the most senior figures in the government of Saddam Hussein, have gone on trial for what prosecutors said was their role in the execution of thousands of members of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki's political party during Saddam's rule.

Many Iraqis welcomed the action, especially relatives of victims hoping for a measure of long-awaited justice.

But critics saw the timing of the trial, which opened Sunday, as a highly politicized and even cynical move by Maliki and his partisans to bolster their stature among their core Shiite constituency before crucial provincial elections that are scheduled for the end of January. That some of the defendants had already been convicted in other cases bolstered the argument that the trial was at least partly for show.

The defendants include Saddam's cousin, Ali Hassan al-Majid, better known as Chemical Ali, who received the death sentence in two previous trials. Several others, like Sabawi and Watban Ibrahim, Saddam's half brothers, and Tariq Aziz, Saddam's deputy prime minister, face charges in other trials being heard by the same court.

They were charged Sunday with the organized killing of as many as 250,000 members of the Islamic Dawa Party, which opposed Saddam's Baath Party, from 1968 to 2003.



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