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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 October 2005, 16:26 GMT 17:26 UK
Saddam's trial may be televised
Saddam Hussein on front page of Iraqi newspaper
The former leader's trial will be followed closely by many in Iraq
The chief judge in the trial of Iraqi ex-leader Saddam Hussein has said he hopes the proceedings - due to start next week - will be televised.

Raed Juhi said the trial will be openly reported, though security fears mean the public will be barred from court.

Whether Saddam Hussein faces the death penalty if convicted "will be decided at the last minute," the judge said.

The ex-leader's lawyers have attacked the legitimacy of the court, which is trying him for crimes against humanity.

Saddam's defence team say they have had insufficient time to prepare, and have accused the trial judges of bias.

The special tribunal that will try Saddam was set up in December 2003. The location of the trial is being kept secret for security reasons.

The trial is set to begin on Wednesday, 19 October, tribunal officials said.

Many delays

"The trial will be public," Judge Juhi is quoted by the AFP news agency as saying. "And I hope that it will be broadcast live on television."

The final say on whether the trial is broadcast is expected to rest with the other trial judges.

Five judges will open the proceedings against Saddam and seven associates accused of killing more than 100 civilians in Dujail, the scene of a failed assassination attempt on the leader.

The ex-leader and his aides have been accused of many crimes against humanity - the first charge concerns a massacre in the Shia village of Dujail in 1982.

The start of the trial has been delayed several times, amid criticism of the tribunal's legitimacy and fears for the security of its judges.

Kurdish and Shia grievances

It is not clear what other charges have been filed against Saddam, though a government spokesman said in June that the tribunal will hear 11 cases besides Dujail.

The deposed leader has been accused of killing thousands in chemical gas attacks on Iraq's Kurdish minority during the 1980s.

Many Shia also want Saddam to be punished for brutal reprisals on their community that followed an uprising against him in southern Iraq in 1991.

Saddam could also be charged with crimes committed by his army during its brief occupation of Kuwait in the early 1990s.

Many Iraqis want him to be executed for his alleged crimes, though President Jalal Talabani has said he opposes the death sentence.

Iraq is meanwhile preparing for a referendum on the country's first post-Saddam constitution drafted by Iraqis.

Prisoners in jails across Iraq cast their votes on Thursday, two days before the rest of the country.

It is not known if Saddam Hussein voted in the referendum.


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