Nearly two years after he was found in hiding, the trial of Saddam Hussein gets underway today. In the first case to be brought against him, the former Iraqi dictator will face charges over the deaths of 143 Shi’ite Muslims in 1982.
However the hearing is likely to be adjourned almost immediately. Saddam’s defence counsel says it has not had enough time to study 800 pages of evidence against him.
It also argues the court has no jurisdiction because it was set up by an unelected body – the Iraqi Governing Council – while Iraq was still run by the Coalition Provisional Authority.
In one Kurdish town in northern Iraq, they will be following events particularly closely.
Some 5,000 people were killed within minutes when Saddam’s army dropped a cocktail of poison gases on Halabja, 17 years ago.
The bombing took place during the Iran-Iraq War and Saddam suspected the Kurdish community of collaboration. Invading Iranians had advanced into the city.
Locals are determined to see Saddam brought to trial for the bombing.
Survivors have provided testimony from over 7,000 witnesses which they hope will help convict him.