Cambridge (UK), Sept.25 : Nearly two years after an Iraqi court sentenced Saddam Hussein to death, Western lawyers who helped guide the court, have contended that Hussein was railroaded to the gallows by vengeful officials in Iraq's new government.
According to The Telegraph, these lawyers say Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki forced the resignation of one of five judges in the trial only days before the court sentenced Hussein.
The purpose, the lawyers say, was to avert the possibility that judges who were wavering would spare Hussein the death penalty and sentence him to life imprisonment instead.
The disclosures, made amid a steep decline in violence in Iraq, seem likely to raise fresh questions about the degree to which the Bush administration has succeeded in promoting democratic principles, including the rule of law, among Iraq's new leaders.
Inevitably, they will also lend new momentum to die-hard Baathists who regard Mr. Hussein as a martyr.
Long before Mr. Hussein was hanged on Dec. 30, 2006, with supporters of Iraq's new Shiite-led government taunting him as the noose was tightened around his neck, a pattern of intervention by powerful Iraqi officials had been established.
But until now, only officials involved with the court's inner workings knew that a third judge, Munthur Hadi, was forced from the judges' panel less than a week before the court delivered its verdicts, on November 5, 2006. Another judge, Ali al-Kahaji, who had heard none of the evidence in the nine-month trial, replaced him.
The replacement was favored, the Western lawyers say, because of his links with Maliki's Dawa religious party, which had lost thousands of its members to Mr. Hussein's repression, and because of Kahaji's readiness to approve Mr. Hussein's hanging.
A spokesman for Maliki on Wednesday denied any involvement by the Iraqi government in the judicial proceedings.
Judge Hadi could not be reached for comment. Three other judges who served on the court refused to comment, as did Haider al-Abadi, a member of Parliament and a close political ally of Maliki.