Blogging the IST

Blogging the Saddam trial

BAGHDAD — Saddam Hussein’s trial has started with typical bluster from the former dictator. Primer on the tribunal is “here”:,9171,1118387,00.html. The time stamps on the entries represent the time on my computer. But the trial tape is delayed by 30 minutes, so take that into account as you read. When something is happening in real time, I’ll italicize the entry.
1:07:44 PM When asked for his name, Saddam used the opportunity to make a bombastic statement in which he said he was the president of Iraq and the court was illegitimate.
1:08:11 PM The chief judge, Rizgar Mohammed Amein, a Kurd, has made a smart call and allowed all of the defendants their traditional Arab head gear returned.
_1:12:12 PM Big clashes reported near Umm Qurra mosque, headquarters of the hard-line Muslim Clerics’ Association. No details yet._
1:17:05 PM Five judges sit in semi-circle at far end of courtroom, with five clerks sitting in front of them Presiding judge is Rizgar Mohammad Amein sitting in middle, other judges not identified. Defendants are in the middle, facing the judges. Saddam is in front on the right. Other defendants include: Awad Hamad Bandar, Taha Yassin Ramadan, Barzan al-Tikriti, Mohammed Azzawi Ali, Ali Dayih Ali, Mizhar Abdullah Kadam a-Roweed, Abdullah Kadam al-Roweed
On judges’ right and the defendants’ left are the prosecutors, with chief prosecutor Jaafar al-Musawi sitting closest to judges. Three other unnamed prosecutors and a clerk are also at that table
On the judges’ left there’s the witness stand. After the witness stand are the defense lawyers, sitting in two rows facing the defendants and the prosecution.
1:20:54 PM List of defendants and their lawyers:

Defendant Lawyer(s)
Saddam Hussein Khalil al-Dulaimi, Khamees Hammed al-Ubaidi
Awad Hamad Bandar Saadoon al-Janabi, Bader Awad Bader al-Bandar al-Saun
Taha Yassin Ramadan Majeed Hidab Halhool, Adel Mohammed Zubeidi and/or Thamer Hamud al-Khazai
Barzan al-Tikriti Abdul Samad Mohammed Ali al Huseni
Ali Dayih Ali Husam abd al Kareem Yousef, Ahmad Jihad Yusuf
Mizhar Abdullah Kadam al-Roweed Muhammad Harbi al-Janabi, Thamir Nasir Jassim Mashadany
Abdullah Kadam al-Roweed Muhammad Harbi al-Janabi, Thamir Nasir Jassim Mashadany
Mohammed Azzawi Ali First appointed defense counsel

2:01:42 PM Jesus, just getting their names is taking forever.
2:06:51 PM Saddam once again takes umbrage with being called “former” president of Iraq. Rebukes the judge. “Those are your words, not mine,” he said of the “former” comment. Snap!
_2:10:04 PM Saddam has entered a “not guilty” plea for the alleged murders of 143 men and boys in Dujail in 1982._
2:21:57 PM I’m on the second day rotation of the press pool, so if trial runs to tomorrow before a recess, I’ll be in the room. Unfortunately, that will mean no real-time blogging because of the restrictions on reporters. We can’t bring laptops into the courtroom and there’s no connectivity there anyway. Plus, as part of the pool I’m supposed to file all my notes to the pool first before anywhere else.
2:25:56 PM Charges entered. The massacre at Dujail was “deliberate and premeditated.”
2:29:25 PM All defendants enter “innocent” plea.
_2:40:33 PM My local staff is transfixed by the trial. Y., our IT guy and top-notch translator says, “This makes me feel very comfortable. Looking at those guys sitting in the cage, saying they’re innocent.” He smiles with lots of teeth. It’s not a nice smile. “It’s fucking NICE. Great.” And he pumps a fist into the other palm._
_3:09:05 PM Major technical issues with sound in the courtroom, hampering translation. But the judges seem prepared to rule on whether to grant a delay or not. All signs point to a delay._
3:18:16 PM Trial has been delayed until Nov. 28, answering the defense team’s plea.

Election Analysis in TIME

My latest take on the referendum is available at now, and readers of B2I will notice that the blog informed a lot of the magazine copy. Plus, we got some more reporting out of Mosul.

BAGHDAD — My latest take on the referendum is “available at”:,8599,1119617,00.html now, and readers of B2I will notice that the blog informed a lot of the magazine copy. Plus, we got some more reporting out of Mosul.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if the election was rigged,” said a U.S. Army officer in Mosul who requested anonymity and who worked on security arrangements for the poll with Iraqi security and election officials. “I don’t even trust our election process.”

Secondly, a primer by Elaine Shannon and me on the Saddam trial “is also available”:,9171,1118387,00.html, and that’s taking up a lot of my time today. Alas, I’m not in the first day’s pool but I’m in the second day — which means I won’t get to see Saddam until January, probably. His lawyer, Khalil Dulaimi is widely expected to ask for and receive some kind of delay, so the first day of the trial will likely be anti-climatic. A little charge-reading, a little delay motions and we’re done.
The security was very tight going in to the trial, according to pool reports. As the journos were bussed in, everything was taken from them — everything. Watches, wallets, even pens and notebooks. (One U.S. soldier told the reporters that the CIA and the KGB have low-calibre pen-guns. Doesn’t he know the KGB was renamed years ago?) The reporters were given pencils and yellow legal pads with which to take notes, although there is allegedly a supply of back-up pens if people get too aggressive with the pencil lead.
So, in the absence of anything actually happening at the trial right now, we’re reduced to a) writing about writing with pencils and b) reporting from pool reports. Eh. It’s a living.

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