Arabs show little sympathy for toppled Iraqi leader
CAIRO: Arabs showed little sympathy for Saddam Hussein as he went on trial on Wednesday but many said the court trying the toppled Iraqi leader would not give him a fair hearing because it was set up under US occupation.
“Everyone knows that the trial is an American game, but the truth must come out,” said Mohammad Abdullah Majrashi, a 56-year-old retired government employee in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Saddam is being tried by the Iraqi Special Tribunal, charged with crimes against humanity for his role in killing more than 140 people in the village of Dujail after an assassination attempt more than two decades ago. Seven other members of his Baath Party are also being tried.
“The people do not like Saddam. He should be tried because he oppressed his people. But this an American process,” said bookshop employee Mohamed Mahmoud, 27, in downtown Cairo. Qatari graphic designer Lulwa al-Qadi said: “I believe Saddam should be tried, but I am certain he will not have a fair trial. It is a case for Iraqis to try, but I feel his fate has already been decided.”
The tribunal was set up after Saddam’s capture in 2003 while US forces were formally occupying Iraq. International rights groups have queried the tribunal’s impartiality and some Arabs believe the verdict has already been fixed.
The pan-Arab daily al-Hayat printed a cartoon showing Saddam before the tribunal seated in an electric chair plugged into the power socket and with a note attached reading: “A present from President Bush.”
Most Arabs vigorously opposed President George W Bush’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003 and remain suspicious of US intentions in Iraq and the region. Some question whether the Iraqi government can really be independent when US forces are still in the country.
“This is an illegitimate trial because the Americans have occupied Iraq, a Muslim country. Bush should be the one in Saddam’s chair,” said Hassan Nasser, 33-year-old Lebanese man, who works in the Internet industry.
Jumana Khalil, a 28-year-old Jordanian freelance writer, said: “(Saddam) was backed by the US for so long and they cast a blind eye on his atrocities and it is only now that they have an interest in his country that they staged this trial.”
Nevertheless, some in the region say the trial could send a message about accountability to other leaders in the Arab world, where many presidents and ruling families have governed for decades with few, if any, democratic credentials.
“It’s an important step for justice when we get to the day when all those who massacred their people would get their punishment. It’s a lesson for all the Arab leaders,” said George Estfan, a 45-year-old Lebanese architect.
“Saddam committed many crimes but all the Arab states helped him,” said Haitham Nabil, 31, an Egyptian Internet shop manager. “It’s the Iraqis’ right to put him on trial but not the Americans’.”
“I am ecstatic for the start of the trial of the tyrant Saddam Hussein and for witnessing earthly justice taking place before heavenly justice,” Abdulrahman al-Humaidan, head of Kuwait’s Lawyers Association, told the daily al-Rai al-Aam. reuters