BAGHDAD -- Saddam Hussein's lawyer has asked that the start of the former Iraqi president's trial be delayed and challenged the court's jurisdiction. Officials have dismissed the request, and said yesterday that the Oct. 19 starting date is firm.
Hussein and seven members of his toppled regime are scheduled to stand trial before the Special Iraqi Tribunal on charges that they ordered the massacre in 1982 of 143 people in Dujail, a mainly Shi'ite town north of Baghdad, after a failed assassination attempt against him.
If convicted, Hussein and his codefendants could face the death penalty. If their final appeals are turned down and their sentences are upheld, the execution, by hanging, must take place within 30 days, according to court statutes.
The trial is expected to be the first of about a dozen involving crimes against humanity committed by Hussein and some of his government aides during his 23-year rule. These include the gassing in 1988 of as many as 5,000 Kurds in Halabja, northeastern Iraq, and the suppression in 1991 of a Shi'ite uprising in the south, after a US-led coalition drove the Iraqi army out of Kuwait.
Abdel Haq Alani, a legal consultant to Hussein's daughter Raghad, said yesterday that the former president's lawyer, Khalil Dulaimi, had been served on Sept. 25 with a notice designating Oct. 19 as the starting date for the trial.
Additionally, Dulaimi was also ''handed some documents, said to be pertinent to the alleged evidence to be presented in court," Alani added.
Dulaimi has petitioned the court for a delay ''because the court should not expect to give us only two weeks to review the case and the documents, while it took it two years to do so," Alani said. A second petition questioned the jurisdiction of the court, Alani said.