Iraq's president said Tuesday that Saddam Hussein had confessed to killings and other "crimes" committed during his regime. AP reported.
President Jalal Talabani told Iraqi television that he had been informed by an investigating judge that "he was able to extract confessions from Saddam's mouth" about crimes "such as executions" which the ousted leader had personally ordered.
Talabani said that some of the confessions involved cases under investigation but he did not specify them. Saddam faces his first trial Oct. 19 for his alleged role in the massacre of Shiites in Dujail, a town north of Baghdad in 1982.
Saddam could face the death penalty if convicted in the Dujail case.
The Iraq Special Tribunal is also investigating Saddam's alleged role in other atrocities, including the 1988 gassing of thousands of Kurdish civilians in Halabja and the 1991 suppression of the Shiite rebellion in the south.
Iraqi authorities plan to try those cases separately.
Saddam met with his lawyer for the first time since the trial date was announced, said Abdel Haq Alani, a legal consultant to Saddam's eldest daughter, Raghad, who lives in Jordan.
"The meeting took place on Monday, but I'm not at liberty to disclose the contents of the talks," Alani said earlier in the day, before Talabani's statements.
Alani, an Iraqi lawyer who practices in Britain, reiterated in a telephone interview that neither Saddam nor Dulaimi have been officially informed of the trial date.
Talabani's interview was aired late at night and it was impossible to reach other officials, the Iraqi tribunal or Saddam's attorneys for comment.
Without a full explanation of what Saddam said, it is difficult to determine whether such a confession would cancel the need for a trial or spare Saddam from the gallows.
It was unclear whether Saddam "confessed" or simply acknowledged he had ordered killings or other actions but considered them legal. Whether those actions were crimes in a legal sense would have to be determined by a trial.
Saddam's lawyers could argue, for example, that Talabani's comments were prejudicial, an argument that might not sway the court but would have resonance abroad and within the country's already disaffected Sunni Arab minority, of which the former president is a member.
Sunnis, who form the core of the insurgency, are already enraged by alleged killings of Sunni civilians by the Shiite-dominated security forces — a charge the government denies — and by the draft constitution which was approved Aug. 28 by the Shiites and Kurds over the objections of Sunni negotiators.
The perception that Saddam was being convicted before a trial could add the Sunni anger.
Saddam's legal team said it plans to challenge the starting date as allowing insufficient time for a proper defense. Defense lawyers also said they would challenge the trial's legitimacy.
Saddam has been in US custody at an undisclosed site in Baghdad since his capture in December 2003, eight months after his regime was overthrown by US forces.
The former dictator is expected to face about a dozen trials for alleged crimes committed by his regime, including the gassing of Kurds in Halabja and the 1991 suppression of a Shiite uprising in the south.
(Chinadaily.com via agencies September 7, 2005)