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Iraq Transition

Officials: Saddam trial on track

By Baghdad Bureau Chief Kevin Flower

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The trial of Saddam Hussein remains on track for the October 19 target date, but the actual courtroom drama might not begin just at that time, a source close to Iraq's war crimes tribunal has told CNN.

The court proceedings could begin that day with any number of motions and other staid legal procedures, providing brief delays for the much-anticipated event.

There is no way to know exactly when the former dictator, imprisoned in Baghdad since his capture in December 2003, will be cleared for a trial.

Saddam and seven others are charged in connection with a series of 1982 detentions and executions in Dujayl a Shiite town north of Baghdad after assassination attempt against him.

The tribunal said 15 people were summarily executed back then and about 1,500 others spent years in prison under Saddam with no charges and no trial date. Ultimately, another 143 were put on "show trials" and executed.

The trial is scheduled during a busy time in Iraq -- four days after the national constitution referendum.

Preparations are being made to accommodate international journalists and security will be tight. Proceedings may start around 10 a.m. and end at 4 p.m. No one will be allowed to leave the center where the trial will take place, and visitors will be carefully screened.

Saddam Hussein has been meeting regularly with his lawyer and getting ready for the trial, where more than 70 witnesses are available to testify.

The source said Saddam and his attorney met an investigative judge, who made sure Saddam was getting proper representation.

"There were a few Iraqi lawyers who actually appeared in court or went to the Iraqi Special Tribunal and reviewed records and dealt with the court on various issues and those are the ones who the Iraqi Special Tribunal understands represents Saddam Hussein," the source said.

He said Saddam has made it clear that he is pleased with his lawyer -- Khalil Duleimi. He is satisfied with representation from other attorneys if Duleimi gave his approval for that.

"No one who Saddam has recognized as his attorney has been denied access to him to consult on the case," said the source.

Attorney-client confidentiality between Saddam and his lawyer has been respected, the source said.

"If Duleimi or any of the other attorneys feel that their access to the referral file has not given them an adequate understanding of what the charges against them are or the evidence against them is, they can complain to the court," the source said.

The law governing the procedure for such trials -- which has been recently revised -- permits appeals before sentencing, and the court will decide how to deal with issues of defendants being involved in other cases. Sentences must be carried out in 30 days from the time of conviction after appeals are exhausted.

The next round of charges expected to be on the agenda will involve the Anfal campaign, the Saddam government's campaign against the Kurds.

Earlier this month, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani told state television that an investigator who questioned Saddam told him he had extracted important confessions from him and that the ousted leader had signed them.

Duleimi later denied the ousted president had confessed to ordering executions and waging a campaign against Kurds in which thousands of people are said to have been killed. (Full story)

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