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Jordanian View of Saddam Hussein’s Trial

The trial of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein receives heavy press coverage in the neighboring country of Jordan but many Jordanians question the validity of the court and the involvement of foreigners.

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  • SIMON MARKS:

    The village is still ubiquitous on the streets of Jordan; more than two years after his overthrow by U.S.-led forces visitors can still buy Saddam-era banknotes from the trinket salesman in the historic old city of Amman.

    And they can keep up with Saddam's latest activities by visiting any Jordanian newsstand. The papers here are devoting pages of space to the trial underway next door in Iraq.

    And many Jordanians don't like what they're reading and seeing.

    MAN ON STREET (Translated): When we watch TV, we feel that this is not a trial. This is a farce. I don't think that the verdict will be fair and just.

    MAN ON STREET (Translated): Everyone agrees, ask anyone you want if it's a fair trial. They'll all say it's unprofessional. It's simply a farce. I've never seen in my life such a trial.

    Why didn't they put him on trial like Milosevic in The Hague. Why not send him to The Hague? It's exactly the same kind of case. Why hold it in Iraq under the supervision of the Americans?

  • SIMON MARKS:

    In a country where the government support for the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq has always been tempered by the public's opposition to a lengthy U.S. occupation, there is overwhelming hostility toward the manner in which Saddam is facing justice and specific complaints from some here about the legal process.

    The judge in the case, Rizgar Mohammed Amin, is a Kurdish from the north part of the country. Many people here say his Arabic isn't good enough to go head-to-head with the former Iraqi leader. They question the involvement of foreigners both in the prosecution of Saddam Hussein and in his defense.

    Many say they don't understand why former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark and a former minister of justice from Qatar are part of the defense team. And the secret testimony of witnesses hidden behind curtains, their voices electronically disguised is also affecting Jordanians' view of the trial's fairness.

  • MAN ON STREET:

    All the Iraqi people are suffering. And everybody is blaming and blaming the government for that funny court. This is not a court.

    They must do something. They must remove the judge. They must change the staff and bring in an efficient staff to finish this court.

  • SIMON MARKS:

    There are also questions about the charges Saddam is facing. They revolve around specific events in the Iraqi town of Dujail back in 1982.

    The former Iraqi leader is accused of ordering the summary execution of 148 men and boys following a failed assassination attempt against him.

    But George Hawatmeh, a former editor of the Jordan Times, says there is no understanding here that this could be just the first in a series of trials that Saddam will eventually face.

  • GEORGE HAWATMEH:

    Why on earth are you trying Saddam Hussein on this Dujail matter or whatever it is? I mean the Americans have gone into Iraq to depose a dictator, to change this status quo, to stop Iraq from being the aggressive, hostile country that it was.

    It all boils down to a question of Saddam's men butchering or massacring 150 people. What about the hundreds and hundreds of thousands, even millions that were killed within Iraq, Iran?

    Why did we go in there in the first place? Has it all boiled down to that particular incident in Dujail?

  • SIMON MARKS:

    Every day that the trial is in session, Jordanian television brings its viewers up to date on the activities in the courtroom, activities Jordanians can also watch through continuous coverage offered by dozens of Pan Arab satellite networks.

  • GEORGE HAWATMEH:

    There might be an Iraqi judge. Saddam did address that question the other day when he said — he complained about the treatment of his guards.

    When the judge intervened and said, "I'll ask them to behave towards you." And he said what do you mean you would ask them to. You order them. You are an Iraqi. You order these guys. These are the occupiers so if you're talking about public perception, this is what comes across into homes.

  • SIMON MARKS:

    Many Jordanians are at pain to emphasize that by taking issue with his trial they are in no way condoning Saddam's actions while he was in power.

    Indeed, support is high here for Saddam's eventual punishment, but many Jordanians fear that a flawed legal process could contribute to the violent instability in Iraq that just a month ago was exported directly to Amman.

    The Jordanian capital is still reeling from the suicide attacks launched against three international hotels here. They claimed 62 lives, many of them lost during a wedding reception, at Amman's Radisson Hotel.

    Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, claimed responsibility for the attacks, and in the process, lost much of the limited support he enjoyed here.

    In a predominantly Palestinian suburb of East Amman where opposition to the U.S. presence in Iraq runs high, so now does hostility toward one of the leaders of Iraq's insurgency.

    NAYEEN AL JABLEE, Palestinian Resident (Translated): I do not support him in these deeds. What did the bridegroom's family do wrong? They were extremely happy, celebrating their son's wedding. He converted the happiness of the wedding into death.

  • SIMON MARKS:

    And it is that hotly debated atmosphere that the trial of Saddam Hussein is being viewed here. In over a week not a single Jordanian from across the social spectrum told us they were impressed by the trial of Saddam Hussein.

    Justice, people here insist, will not be seen to be done by the court currently convened in Baghdad — running the risk that the reputation of Iraq's former leader will be enhanced here not sullied by the legal proceedings against him.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    In a speech today, Secretary of State Rice criticized other countries for not helping Iraq prosecute Saddam. She said, "The international community's effective boycott of Saddam's trial is only harming the Iraqi people."

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