Saddam: Down but Not Yet Out: The Ongoing Trial of Saddam Hussein Has Almost Taken a Back Seat in the News, Ousted by Reports of the Violence and Bloodletting in Iraq. However Dr Sahib Al Hakim, Who Conducted a Long Campaign against the Iraqi Despot, Continues to Keep a Close Eye on Proceedings and Says Many Questions Remain Unanswered

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"WHY DID IT TAKE two years to bring Saddam to trial? Why was he allowed to use the court as a platform from which to attack the Iraqi people? Why was he allowed to wear Arab headdress to indicate his association with the Arab world, and to hold the Koran? He never did this before." These are just some of the many questions left unanswered by the trial of the former Iraqi president, according to Dr Sahib Al Hakim, who spent the six years, until the invasion of 2003, calling for Saddam Hussein to be put on trial, organising a weekly picket in London's Trafalgar Square. Over a million people signed the petition calling for Saddam's trial. But although the Iraqi dictator is now in custody, Dr Al Hakim still has many more questions.

Speaking from his London home, the 64-year-old campaigner, who has 8,000 documents and photos recording the former Iraqi president's human rights abuses, described the trial as "a play staged by the Americans."

In a dignified, reflective voice Dr Al Hakim described his many concerns, which he says are shared by many Iraqis inside and outside their homeland. He remains dismayed that the US flew members of Saddam's defence team (Ramsey Clarke, the former American attorney-general and Najib Al Nauimi, the former Qatari minister of justice) to Baghdad without visas.

"Everything is in the hands of the Americans," Dr Al Hakim complains. Saddam was arrested by the Americans.

They decide who can meet him and no one has properly seen him except Dr Ahmad Chalabi (Iraq's deputy prime minister, whose opposition Iraqi National Congress was sponsored by the Americans), Adnan Pachachi (another politician favoured by the Americans), Dr Mowaffak Al Rubaie (Iraq's national security adviser) and Adil Abdel Mahdi (the interim vice-president). Before he was brought to court, Saddam was interviewed by Al Rubaie and the American ambassador in Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad.

"We still don't know what is going on, we don't know what they talked about," says Dr Al Hakim, who has other serious concerns about American interference in the judicial process in Iraq and European pressures not to execute Saddam.

"The Americans have released 24 of Saddam's followers and we know only the names of two female scientists, Rihab Taha and Huda Ammash, and two men. We don't know who the other 20 are, or why they were released. Where are they? It was alleged that they are in Jordan. Even the Iraqi government doesn't know where they are. The Americans have no right to do this. These people are Iraqis and they should be in Iraq ... And maybe the Europeans do not want to see this criminal (Saddam Hussein) executed but the Iraqi people do want this. People are regularly executed in America and their crimes are nothing like Saddam's!"

However, though he strongly disapproves of the extent of US influence, Dr Al Hakim has always been against a trial at the International Court of Justice.

"Saddam Hussein is an Iraqi, he has committed crimes inside Iraq on Iraqi land, he killed Iraqi people, he spent Iraqi money and attacked his neighbours from bases in Iraq, so it is an Iraqi issue and the judges of Iraq are capable of trying him--except Rizgar [Amin, the former chief judge] who allowed Saddam to use the trial for his own propaganda and to call himself the president of Iraq. We have experienced judges ... many of whom studied outside Iraq in respectable colleges."

There have been several calls for Iraq's trial of the century to be transferred to the northern region of the country, which is safer than Baghdad and would allow for a greater presence of foreign media. …