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Last Updated: Sunday, 15 January 2006, 11:55 GMT
Saddam trial judge offers to quit
Judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin
Judge Rizgar has submitted a letter of resignation
Iraqi government officials are considering the resignation submitted by the chief judge at the trial of the former Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein.

Before the judge, Rizgar Amin, can step down, his departure has to be approved by the offices of both the president and the prime minister.

A source involved in the tribunal told the BBC he is disappointed by public reaction to his running of the trial.

He has been accused of being too lenient on Saddam Hussein in court.

The prime minister's office said his resignation had not yet been accepted. Colleagues are believed to be trying to persuade him to reconsider.

Judge Rizgar is overseeing the trial of Saddam Hussein and seven former members of his regime over the killing of 148 people in Dujail in 1982.

The defendants all deny the charges.

'Seeking fairness'

There are four other judges involved in the tribunal, but Judge Rizgar has been very much the public face of the court.

Amid security fears, highlighted by the killing of two defence lawyers, only one other trial judge has appeared on camera and many witnesses have kept their identities secret.

Saddam Hussein

Some members of the Iraqi government and US politicians have complained that Judge Rizgar has been too soft on the former president, allowing him to take over the court.

However, the source within the tribunal told the BBC's Alistair Leithead in Baghdad that Judge Rizgar is not resigning over pressure from the Iraqi government, but because of his disappointment at the public's reaction.

The source said that the judge had simply been trying to ensure that the trial is fair and that everyone involved gets their say.

'Winning tactic'

The BBC's world affairs editor, John Simpson, who has attended the trial in Baghdad, says Judge Rizgar knows his resignation will be a terrible blow to the whole project of bringing Saddam Hussein to justice.

He may be hoping that public opinion will now swing behind him.

Judge Rizgar has been remarkably lenient to Saddam Hussein and his half-brother, Barzan al-Tikriti, and they have taken advantage of this, our correspondent says.

However, he says that this does not mean that the senior judge has lost control of his court.

Judge Rizgar is a polite, highly intelligent man, who wants the world to see that he dispenses a very different kind of justice from Saddam's own courts, our correspondent says.

And it is a tactic that works, he adds - at the start of the trial, Saddam Hussein refused even to give his name. Yet by force of sheer politeness, Judge Rizgar has worn him down.

His resignation must be approved by both the prime minister's counsel and the president and vice-presidents. The trial is due to resume on 24 January.

See Judge Rizgar Amin at the Saddam trial


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