Brother-in-law of Saddam judge slain

Updated: 2006-09-30 08:42

BAGHDAD, Iraq - A relative of the new presiding judge in Saddam Hussein's genocide trial was shot and killed in Baghdad on Friday, an attack condemned by the country's top prosecutor as an attempt to force the trial to be moved out of Iraq.

Chief judge Mohammed al-Ureybi presides over the trial of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein inside the fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, September 26, 2006. A brother-in-law of Ureybi was shot dead by gunmen while driving in western Baghdad, police said on Friday. [Reuters]

On Friday night, the government imposed a complete curfew for the capital effective immediately through Sunday morning, the prime minister's office said. It did not give a reason for the ban on all vehicles and pedestrians.

A source at the Interior Ministry, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk with the press, said intelligence information on the security situation made a curfew necessary. He refused to give further details.

In the past, such wide-ranging curfews have been imposed following intelligence information that car or suicide bombs were planned in Baghdad. The U.S. military has forecast a surge in violence during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan which began on Monday. A senior U.S. military official said the first week of Ramadan was the worst for suicide bombings since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

Prosecutor General Jaafar al-Mousawi said the attack on a car carrying the judge's brother-in-law and nephew, the latest in a string of violence linked to proceedings against the former Iraqi leader, would not stop the court from moving ahead. During Saddam's first trial, three defense lawyers were killed, and a fourth fled the country in fear of his life.

"The terrorists and criminals are aiming through this act to stop the justice and the democratic process in Iraq," al-Mousawi told The Associated Press. "Killing a lawyer or a judge or their relatives is an attempt to prevent the trial from continuing, and then to transfer it abroad, but that goal will never be achieved."

Saddam's defense team has wanted to move the trial to another country in the belief that the current judges are biased against their client and that he is not receiving a fair trial. However, al-Mousawi did not elaborate on why those who attacked the judge's relatives might want the trial moved.

It was unclear whether Judge Mohammed Oreibi al-Khalifa's relatives were targeted because of his role in the trial, or if the shooting was just another of the sectarian attacks that have been plaguing Baghdad.

The judge's brother-in-law, Kadhim Abdul-Hussein, was one of at least six people who died in violent attacks in Iraq on Friday.

Abdul-Hussein was driving through the predominantly Sunni neighborhood Ghazaliyah neighborhood when assailants shot at his car, killing him and wounding his son, Karrar, police 1st Lt. Thaer Mahmoud said.

Al-Khalifa, a Shiite, took over Saddam's trial last week. He had been deputy to the original chief judge, Abdullah al-Amiri, who was removed after being accused of being too soft on Saddam. Among other things, al-Amiri angered Kurdish politicians by declaring in court that Saddam was "not a dictator."

Saddam's nine lawyers walked out of the trial Monday to boycott the proceedings as a protest of al-Amiri's removal. Al-Khalifa later adjourned the trial until Oct. 9, saying he wanted to give the defendants time to persuade their original lawyers to end the boycott, or to confer with new attorneys.

The trial, Saddam's second, began Aug. 21. He and six co-defendants face genocide charges for their roles in a bloody crackdown against Kurdish rebels in the late 1980s. The defendants could face the death penalty if convicted.

With sectarian violence rising during Ramadan, police found the corpses of 14 people who had been tortured in and around Baghdad, all blindfolded with their hands and legs bound likely victims of the death squads that roam the city.

Meanwhile, U.S. troops raided the home of Adnan al-Dulaimi, head of the largest Sunni bloc in parliament, detaining his guard Khudhir Farhan, al-Dulaimi told the AP. Al-Dulaimi said 10 Humvees circled his western Baghdad home, then troops went through the building with a dog.

"I condemn this act and I demand they free the guard," al-Dulaimi said, adding they had the "illusion ... of the guard's involvement with terrorist activities."

U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Barry Johnson said he had "no reason to dispute his claims" that U.S. forces raided his house, but that he could not comment further on "our ongoing operational activities."

"They found nothing," al-Dulaimi said.

The commander of U.S. forces in Ramadi, capital of volatile Anbar province, said the insurgency can be beaten but probably not until after U.S. troops leave Iraq.

"An insurgency is a very difficult thing to defeat in a finite period of time. It takes a lot of persistence perseverance is the actual term that we like to use," Army Col. Sean B. MacFarland, commander of 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division, said in a video-teleconference with reporters at the Pentagon.

"Who knows how long this is going to actually last?" he added. "But if we get the level of violence down to a point where the Iraqi security forces are more than capable of dealing with it, the insurgency's days will eventually come to an end. And they will come to an end at the hands of the Iraqis, who, by definition, will always be perceived as more legitimate than an external force like our own."

In Ramadi, the insurgency has become so entrenched and feared by residents that the city has no Iraqi mayor. Recently, however, the tide has begun to turn against al-Qaida in Iraq, which has become the dominant anti-government force, the colonel said.

"It's a situation that's beginning to spiral in our favor," he said.

A U.N. report released Wednesday said fewer foreign fighters have been killed or captured in Iraq in the last few months, suggesting that the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq "has slackened."