The assassination of an investigative judge working on the forthcoming trial of Saddam Hussein has raised fears that insurgents will target legal proceedings against Iraq’s former regime.
Judge Barwez Mohammed Mahmoud and his son, Aryan, were murdered outside their home in Baghdad’s northern Adamiyah district on Tuesday evening, the same day that five members of Saddam’s government were referred for trial. The attack was taken as a clear warning to those collaborating or assisting with the special tribunal investigating leading Baathists.
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, which is the latest in a series of murders of senior figures associated with Iraq’s transitional government.
Colonel Adnan al-Jabouri, a ministry of interior spokesman, said another investigative judge, not associated with the Saddam tribunal, was also injured in an assassination attempt yesterday in another part of Baghdad.
On Tuesday, the special tribunal, which is made up of about 50 judges, indicted five members of the former government, including Barzan Ibrahim Hasan al-Tikriti, one of Saddam’s half brothers, and the former vice-president, Taha Yassin Ramadan.
The trials of Saddam’s lieutenants, which are not likely to begin before May, are expected to take place at a US military base in Baghdad.
The tribunal is expected to try 12 of the former government’s top members in total, with Saddam likely to be one of the last to face trial, probably not until next year. Col al-Jabouri said the assassination was not expected to slow the tribunal process.
Mahmoud’s death marked the first assassination of a tribunal judge. Raid Juhi, the investigating judge for Saddam Hussein, has lived inside the heavily fortified Green Zone for some months. There have been at least three attempts on his life.
Members of Mahmoud’s family said yesterday that they had expected attempts on the life of their father. “We knew this was coming because of my father’s work,” said one of the judge’s surviving sons. “He and my brother died holding their heads up high. This gives me comfort. We believe that the murders were politically motivated.”
Mahmoud’s son, a lawyer, was a member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, one of the country’s two main Kurdish political parties. PUK members have also been targeted for assassination.