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Hussein judge tries to resign top post

Chief judge wants to step down from lead role

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The chief judge in Saddam Hussein's war crimes trial tried to resign his top post Sunday, a high-ranking Iraqi High Tribunal official told CNN.

The official said the court received Rizgar Amin's letter on Sunday, but the head of the tribunal has yet to decide whether to accept Amin's resignation.

Amin wants to remain a judge with the tribunal, according to the official, who did not say why Amin wants to step down as presiding judge. (Special report: Saddam Hussein on trial)

Amin said in his letter he could stay as chief judge through January 24, when the trial resumes, the official said.

There are five judges on the tribunal.

Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, a member of the defense team, has criticized the lack of protection for the Iraqi attorneys and their families.

Since the trial began in October, two defense attorneys have been killed.

Amin's own security has been compromised; he is the only judge whose name has been revealed. He has appeared on video of the proceedings in spite of the security risk.

By contrast, trial participants have refused to show their faces on video, fearing retribution attacks by Hussein loyalists.

The proceedings have sometimes been interrupted by a combative Hussein with outbursts, heated exchanges and posturing. Commentators in and outside Iraq have conclude he and his cohorts have too much free rein in court.

Hussein and seven co-defendants face charges over the killings of more than 140 males in Dujail in 1982. The killings occurred after an assassination attempt on Hussein, Iraq's leader at the time.

Other developments

  • About 500 non-violent security detainees were released from Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad on Sunday, the U.S. military said. Their cases were reviewed by a board of Iraqi and coalition officials, according to a news release.
  • Violence struck Baghdad on Saturday with the assassination of a Shiite imam; a roadside bomb that struck a police patrol, leaving 10 people wounded; and the discovery of three bodies in a drainage canal, police told CNN.
  • CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report.

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