Brother-in-law of Saddam trial judge killed

A brother-in-law of the judge trying Saddam Hussein for genocide was shot dead by gunmen while driving in western Baghdad, police said on Friday.

One police source told Reuters that the 10-year-old nephew of chief judge Mohammed al-Ureybi and a third person in the car were wounded in the attack on Thursday evening.

A second source said the nephew had died and the third person, who was Ureybi’s sister, was seriously wounded.

It was not immediately clear if the attack was linked to Ureybi’s work at the Iraqi High Tribunal. He was appointed chief judge only last week after the government sacked his predecessor for telling Saddam the former president was “not a dictator”.

One Iraqi lawyer familiar with court procedure said the tribunal’s appeals panel would probably now have to review whether Ureybi could continue to preside and might conclude that he would have to step down on the grounds that the killings of his relatives might prejudice him against the defendants.

Three defence lawyers working for Saddam and his co-accused have been killed over the past year and international legal rights groups have questioned whether he can have a fair trial in a country on the brink of sectarian civil war.

The first police source identified the dead man as Kadhem Abdul Hussein, who was in his forties, and named his son as Karrar. The boy was Ureybi’s nephew and the dead man was the husband of the judge’s sister, he said.

“They were attacked in Ghazaliya around 7pm yesterday [Thursday],” the source said, referring a large Sunni Arab neighbourhood.

Sectarian violence

Ureybi is from the majority Shi’ite community now dominant in Iraq after years of oppression under Saddam’s mostly Sunni rule.
He has taken a firm line with the accused in the month-old trial for genocide against the Kurds and has ejected Saddam from court in each of the three sessions over which he has presided.

Tribunal judges, like leading Iraqi politicians, live under tight security. Militants have frequently targeted the relatives of prominent figures, seeking easier targets because the family members enjoy considerably less—if any—protection.

Ureybi, originally from the southern city of Amara but trained in Baghdad, was little known among leading lawyers before appearing at the head of the five-man bench nine days ago, a day after Abdullah al-Amiri was fired by the government.

The three defence laywers, all of them Sunni Arabs, killed were acting in Saddam’s first trial, for crimes against humanity over the deaths of 148 Shi’ite men from Dujail.

A verdict in that case is expected in the next few weeks, despite arguments from the defence, reiterated in a statement on Thursday, that the trial was a farce.

Saddam (69) faces hanging if convicted but no execution can take place until after an appeals process that could take years because of a need to schedule about a dozen trials for the former president over the same period. - Reuters

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