The long-awaited trial of Saddam Hussein opens on Wednesday.
Everything is ready in the Baghdad courtroom where the former Iraqi dictator and seven of his lieutenants will face justice. It will be a long trial – each accusation will be treated individually. It will be open to the public and televised. Saddam will be seated behind a bullet-proof window. The trial will start with the alleged massacre of 143 Shi’ite villagers in 1982. Many Iraqis have waited a long time for this, others have been dreading it. On the streets of Baghdad, opinions vary on what the outcome will be: “I hope the trial will be just and fair,” said one man, “because for 35 long years he delivered injustice to the Iraqi people and oppressed Iraqis through mass killings and imprisonment.” “It won’t be a fair trial,” said another man, “because it will be influenced by ethnic and sectarian tensions and political pressure on the government. The government is opposed to Saddam so a fair trial is not in its interest.” Shi’ites and Kurds suffered particularly under Saddam’s rule. Mehdi’s parents lost their son in 1984. Mehdi was imprisoned and never seen again. Only once the regime fell and archives from Saddam’s era were made public did they find out what happened in a video. The horrendous footage shows Mehdi and another man being blown up with dynamite. “We always kept up hope he would be found alive,” says his father. “But when we saw the video, then we knew for sure he was dead.” The tape,featuring brutal executions, is one of many discovered after Saddam was ousted “When we saw the video, we were shocked,” says his daughter. “We had heard of people being made to swallow gasoline and being shot, and we had heard of people being put through a meat grinder and fed to the fish. Dynamite is used to blow up rocks, not people,” she adds. Saddam faces the death penalty if found guilty – but Iraq’s president Jalal Talabani has said he would not approve such a sentence because of personal convictions.