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Saddam Hussein Charged With Crimes Committed While Ruling Iraq

Aired July 1, 2004 - 07:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: From the CNN broadcast center in New York, this is American Morning with Soledad O'Brien and Bill Hemmer.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. And for many Iraqis today this is likely a day they thought they would never see. Saddam Hussein charged with crimes committed while he ruled that country. The former dictator is said to have entered an Iraqi court about 40 minutes ago, could still be inside now. We don't know the exact details of what's happening in the proceedings. We're getting reports from Anderson Cooper, live from Baghdad. We'll hear from him again in a matter of moments here.

The judge explaining the accusations against Saddam Hussein -- crimes said to include genocide and homicide. After Saddam Hussein, a similar procedure will take place for 11 other members of the former regime. We're waiting for those pictures of his appearance. We'll bring them to you as soon as we get them. That's our big story of the morning, quite clearly.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Also this morning, a very exciting day for NASA -- a moment that scientists and engineers have waited for many years to come. The Cassini spacecraft now in orbit around Saturn. It's going to send its first images back to Earth in just about an hour, Cassini swooping in as close as 12,500 miles above Saturn's clouds -- not a bad view to say the very least. So, we're waiting for those pictures as well this morning.

HEMMER: That's right. Also, good morning to Jack Cafferty, too.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. July 1, Bill and Soledad, traditionally a time when many new laws go into effect in states all across the country. We'll take a look at some of them and maybe come up with one or two of our own.

HEMMER: OK. Our own tribunal. Thank you, Jack. Let's get to Baghdad straightaway this morning. A major step forward already today in the process of putting Saddam Hussein and some of his former top deputies on trial. For the latest, we start in Baghdad -- and Anderson Cooper there. Anderson, what do we know at this hour? Hello to you.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Bill -- good morning, Bill. What we know is this, at approximately 6:20 a.m. Eastern time in the United States, Saddam Hussein was brought out of a bus, an armored bus. He had arrived near the Baghdad airport in a convoy: four U.S. Humvees as well as an ambulance. He was brought out of that bus by two Iraqi corrections officers, then brought by -- along with six other Iraqi corrections officers -- into a court building. We can't get into specifics of exactly where the building is. We'll be able to tell you that in just a little bit. What we know is Saddam Hussein was clean-shaven, that he had a mustache, that he apparently was thinner.

Salam Chalabi, who is the executive director of the Iraqi Special Tribunal, who saw him, met with him, talked to him yesterday said that Saddam Hussein had lost between 11 and 12 pounds, that he appeared nervous, shaken by what was about to take place, and that he asked if he could ask some questions. This was yesterday. Salam Chalabi telling him, no, today was the day for him to ask questions.

We are understanding that Saddam Hussein is now inside the courtroom building. We are assuming that the court is underway. Saddam Hussein appearing before one judge, the Iraq Special Tribunal. He is allowed to ask questions about what will happen to him, about the process ahead of him.

The judge will, in general, talk about the charges against him, as you mentioned -- genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity. Those specific charges are not necessarily going to be read out today. That is likely to happen several months from now because it's going to take months to prepare, to gather witnesses and the like to come up with those actual, formal charges.

We're not sure how long this court proceeding is going to take this morning. Saddam Hussein will be told that he has the right to counsel. He has the right to have counsel appointed if he cannot afford it, that he even has the right to represent himself, though a lot of people here in Iraq, and particularly in the Iraqi government are hoping that he does not choose to do that. They're hoping that he takes counsel as quickly as possible.

After he leaves the court building, then the other 11 members of Saddam's former regime will be brought in -- similar process for them. All of this is being videotaped -- the perp walk, the courtroom, the walk back to the bus. As soon as we have those videos, we are going to bring them to you, of course.

It's a pool feed, so all networks get access to those videos at once. And as soon as we get them, we will air them. And those pictures will be watched around the world, and also especially by Iraqis, who have waited so long for this day and who want to see what Saddam Hussein looks like now, and what, if anything, he says in his defense in court today -- Bill.

HEMMER: An awful lot of anticipation, Anderson. Going back seven months ago, we can show our viewers the last image we had of Saddam Hussein. It was a snapshot taken inside of what appeared to be some sort of prison cell. Ahmed Chalabi sitting to Saddam Hussein's rights, left side of the screen. There were two other Iraqis that have been cropped out of this photo. In fact, it appeared in a political newspaper for Ahmed Chalabi's political party in Iraq. But at the end of the report there, Anderson, you mentioned what I think is a critical component to this story today -- the first Arab dictator to face trial. How are Iraqis viewing this today?

COOPER: I think Iraqis are very curious to see how this all plays out, and a lot really don't understand the notion of a trial. I mean, we talked to Iraqis on the street yesterday, and when they thought about a trial or when they heard the word trial, they assumed it meant that Saddam Hussein was going to get hung, not that he was going to be facing a judge, not that he was going to have a lawyer appointed to him. Free and fair trials are something this country has not seen.

And it's not just an Arab dictator in front of a court, it's really the first time, when you think about it, Bill, any dictator has been tried by his own people. Adolph Hitler, of course, died before that opportunity, Benito Mussolini. Slobodan Milosevic is appearing in front of The Hague, but not inside Serbia -- not being tried by Serbian judges, by a jury of his peers. This is history being made today and all of Iraq is going to be watching.

HEMMER: Indeed, you're right. Thanks, Anderson. Much more this morning. Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Saddam Hussein is now officially considered a criminal suspect under Iraqi law, but his immediate legal future is far from crystal clear.

The road to justice for Saddam remains uncertain. What is certain is he's no longer a prisoner of war. That means he has a right to an attorney.


MUWAFFAQ AL-RUBAIE, IRAQI NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Saddam will be given the right to appoint an attorney for himself, whether that is an international one, or Arab or an Iraqi.


O'BRIEN: Saddam's wife has already hired 20 non Iraqi lawyers to defend him, but the new Iraqi government has not said if they will provide them with security. At least one of Saddam's lawyers says, without protection, they'll almost certainly face assassination. Already there's more than 30 tons of evidence to sift through. Thousands of Iraqis could be called as witnesses. Saddam's attorneys say there's no proof their client did anything wrong, and they say their case symbolizes a far greater struggle.


MOHAMMAD RASHDAN, SADDAM HUSSEIN'S ATTORNEY (through translator): This case does not only have to do with President Saddam Hussein, the former Iraqi President, it has to do with the defense of the Arab nation and the Islamic nation -- and it's actually a defense of what is right. (END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN (voice-over): One decision that will be made before the actual trial begins, whether the death penalty will be reinstated in Iraq. Prime Minister Allawi has asked the Iraqi people to be patient, assuring them that punishment will fit the crimes for which Saddam is convicted. For their part, some Iraqis say they are eager for justice to be served.


IRAQI CITIZEN (through translator): For 35 years, he destroyed this country and committed so many atrocities -- from executions, to unfair jailings and cutting hands off. The Iraqi street wants to see him brought to justice.


O'BRIEN: One group that's busy building a case against Saddam Hussein is the Iraq Memory Foundation, gathering evidence of Saddam's brutal regime to be used at trial. Hassan Mneimneh is the group's director. He is with us from Washington this morning. Nice to see you. Thanks for being with us.

Your organization, we know, busy sifting through, really, hundreds of thousands of pages of documents and evidence. What is your ultimate goal here?

HASSAN MNEIMNEH, IRAQ MEMORY FOUNDATION: We do have short-term goals and long-term goals. In terms of the short-term goals, actually, it does not stop at Saddam Hussein or, for that matter, any kind of support, any kind of assistance we can provide to the Special Tribunal. We are far more interested in helping determine the fate of missing persons. We are interested in helping in the vetting process for ex-regime officials who might be interested in going back to public life.

In terms of the long-term goals, it is more related to, basically, inviting Iraqis society to face this dramatic past of three decades, more than three decades of totalitarianism that it has lived through.

O'BRIEN: What exactly is your relationship with the tribunal? Do you provide documents and evidence to them?

MNEIMNEH: We have had informal talks with the tribunal. I mean let's keep in mind that the special tribunal is still being set up. Ultimately we, indeed, do have dozens of documents -- actually our collection consists of millions of documents. But I mean for each and every single event, we have dozens of documents that basically describe, in detail how -- the whole unfolding of the crimes against Iraqi society both at the level of the individual -- this, if you like, would be a whole category of anecdotal documents -- and also at the level of Iraqi society in general in the form of systematic operation. And in both cases -- I mean Saddam, in particular, just to mention, is someone who has done his best to shield himself from direct responsibility through layers of delegated authority. But ultimately, leadership responsibility kicks in and he can be held accountable for all those crimes.

O'BRIEN: So then, do any of those documents provide evidence that Saddam Hussein committed crimes?

MNEIMNEH: Absolutely. Not necessarily in a direct way, meaning we are unlikely to see -- actually we have not seen -- documents in which Saddam Hussein, himself, signs on an action that can be described to be as blatantly criminal against one individual; however, most of his decrees were blatantly criminal against society in general. And when he authorizes his deputies, someone like Chemical Ali, Ali Hassan al-Majid, to basically have unlimited power, and then Ali Hassan al-Majid put that power to use in order to victimize individuals as well as groups, I mean clearly here we have leadership responsibility.

O'BRIEN: You say Ali.

MNEIMNEH: That affects Saddam.

O'BRIEN: Forgive me for jumping in there. You say Ali Hassan al-Majid. And of course you're talking about Chemical Ali, as he sort of better known here in the United States?


O'BRIEN: So what direct evidence do you have that Chemical Ali was responsible for crimes against humanity and other crimes in Iraq?

MNEIMNEH: Well, I'll give you one example because I think it's important to look at the matter in terms of people, meaning individual Iraqis. We have the case of one such Iraqi, in (unintelligible), who stated a personal opinion about why an amnesty was granted. In his opinion Saddam had to do the amnesty, had to grant the amnesty because his opponents had lots of strength.

As a result of this opinion, Jamal -- His name is Jamal, let's refer to him as such -- was decapitated, killed. His house was raised to the ground and all of his family was put in jail. Fifteen months later they were still in jail. And we have the evidence in which, basically, Ali Hassan al-Majid, Chemical Ali is ordering such punishment for the crime in question.

O'BRIEN: I'm sure many of these documents are going to show some truly shocking things. Hassan Mneimneh, thank you for joining us. We'll probably get an opportunity to check back in with you as you get more information about what's going on with Saddam Hussein this morning. Thanks for being with us. Bill.

MNEIMNEH: Absolutely.

HEMMER: All right, Soledad. Straight back to Baghdad. More information now with Anderson. What do you have?

COOPER: Bill, we have just confirmed -- a U.S. military source -- telling CNN that the court proceeding against Saddam Hussein has begun. We knew that Saddam Hussein had arrived at approximately 6:20 a.m. Eastern time in the United States, at the court building, escorted by Iraqi corrections officers, also U.S. Humvees and an ambulance, taken off an armored bus, brought into the courtroom -- court building, I should say.

We now have confirmation from the U.S. military spokesman that Saddam Hussein's court proceeding has begun. He is appearing before a single judge, we are led to believe. We haven't confirmed that, but as of this morning, that was the plan -- one Iraqi judge on the Special Iraqi Tribunal. The judge would tell Saddam Hussein what rights he has, what the proceedings are, Saddam Hussein would be allowed to ask questions. So, we know it's underway. We don't know how long it's going to last. We had been told yesterday it might be in the five to ten minute range though. Frankly, that is just an estimate. This thing could go much longer than that depending on how many questions Saddam Hussein has and what happens in that courtroom. Bill, we'll bring you up-to-date as soon as we have more.

HEMMER: And waiting not only on those pictures, but certainly at the tail end there, too Anderson -- what will he say, if anything, inside the courtroom today. Thanks, Anderson.

Much more in a moment. As we continue to follow the rest of this story throughout the morning, stay with us. I'll also direct you to our Web site -- full coverage there for you as well, 24-hours a day. In fact, an update is on there waiting for you now. 13 minutes past the hour.

Good morning to Carol Lin. A look at the other news this morning. And Carol, welcome.

CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Bill. Good morning to you, too. We have some other news. In Iraq -- we're going to start there -- where coalition forces launched an air strike in Fallujah. The target, a suspected safe house of terror suspect Abu Musab al- Zarqawi. A military official says it's the fourth such strike in less than two weeks. As many as 15 insurgents were killed.

Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department is upping the reward for information leading to the arrest of al-Zarqawi. He is accused of organizing dozens of terrorist attacks in Iraq. The State Department is more than doubling its previous reward of $10 million.

And there's a formal change of command in Iraq. At a hand-over ceremony in Baghdad, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez is officially stepping down as the top U.S. commander in Iraq. He is being replaced by General George Casey, who is the Army's vice chief of staff. Pentagon officials say replacing Sanchez is routine and does not reflect on loss of confidence in his leadership.

And turning now to sports news. American Serena Williams going up against and Amelie Mauresmo of France today in the Wimbledon semi finals. The women's quarterfinals wrapping up yesterday with Serena Williams crushing Jennifer Capriati -- the battle lasting just 45 minutes.

And on the men's side, number two seed Andy Roddick reaching the semifinals by taking out Sjeng Schalken of the Netherlands. One of Roddick's serves set a Wimbledon record at 146 mph. Roddick now set to play Mario Ancic tomorrow.

And chatting drivers are being asked to hang up. New laws going into effect in New Jersey and Washington D.C. today banning drivers from using cell phones, but they can still use hands-free devices. New York enacted a similar law in 2001. AAA says using cell phones -- well using cell phones was the eighth reason on a list of factors contributing to car accidents. I'm Carol Lin at the CNN Center. Back to you, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Those stats are always pretty incredible, aren't they?

LIN: You bet. I know

O'BRIEN: Just how many times more likely you could have a car accident then if you're not on your cell phone. All right. Carol, thanks a lot. Will check in with you in a little bit.

Let's take you right to Chad who's got a first look at our weather this morning. Good morning to you, Chad. What are you looking at?


O'BRIEN: All right. Chad, thanks a lot.

Let's take you right back to Baghdad. And that's where we find Anderson Cooper who has been covering these proceedings for us. Saddam Hussein appearing in court finally confirmed for us by a military official. Anderson, good morning to you, once again.

We're hearing word, and we're confirming now that Saddam Hussein refused to sign some documents while he was in court. What exactly happened -- do you know?

COOPER: We don't know exactly what happened. That is all we have. Saddam Hussein has refused to sign some legal documents in the court. The last word we had a few seconds ago was that the hearing was over. We're trying to get more confirmation on that. Part of the problem here is that access is extremely limited in the courtroom. It's what we call a pool arrangement in which there is really only one camera, one or two cameras in various locations and a very limited number of reporters in there. They are not allowed to come out and give information until all is said and done.

So, we're trying to collect information from a variety of sources. But the last word we got just moments ago was that Saddam Hussein inside the hearing has refused to sign some legal documents and that the hearing may be, at this point, over. But again, we're just trying to get more clarification on exactly what has gone on. We knew that Saddam Hussein was going to be appearing. We knew that the hearing was underway and that he was appearing in front of a single Iraqi judge, in front of this tribunal and that he would be told his rights. One could surmise that refusing to sign some documents is refusing to acknowledge the validity of the court; however, at this point we simply don't know much more details than that, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Anderson, thanks. Of course were going to continue to check in with you throughout the morning. Let's take you right to Christiane Amanpour who is also following these proceedings for us. Christiane, good morning. What you know about what's happened with Saddam Hussein and also the refusal to sign these documents?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTL. CORRESPONDENT: This morning, just about 20 minutes ago, this hearing ended. It lasted about 30 minutes. I was inside the court. I saw Saddam Hussein come into the courtroom flanked by two big Iraqi judges. He looked very thin. He looked tired. He looked a bit defeated. He sat down. The judge, the investigative judge who was sitting down waiting for him asked him, first, his name. Twice he said, I am Saddam Hussein, the president of Iraq.

Then the judge asked him whether or not he understood his rights. He explained the process, asked him whether he wanted counsel, whether he could afford counsel. Saddam Hussein was ultimately downcast and combative, occasionally in a hoarse voice -- his voice is hoarse -- he jabbed his finger at the judge. He asked whose jurisdiction this was. He kept claiming to still be the president of Iraq. And he asked under whose jurisdiction did the judge and this court process fall. He looked kind of confused.

He was then read a total of seven charges against him. These are the preliminary charges under the preliminary arrest warrant -- these are not the formal indictments. He was charged with the invasion of Kuwait, the suppression in March of 1991 of the Kurdish and Shiite uprisings after the first Gulf War, of what's known as an unfiled campaign against Kurds up in Kurdistan. He was charged with killing members of political parties over the last 30 years. He was charged with killing religious figures in 1974. He was charged with Halabja, the gassing of the Kurds back in the '80s.

He refused to recognize that he had invaded Kuwait. He kept saying, how could you say that? I did that for the Iraqi people. He said, I did that for the Iraqi people. How could you defend these dogs -- he said about the Kuwaitis.

The judge reprimanded him. Said, don't use such words in a court. Let me remind you that you are in a court of law and such language is not permitted.

He kept asking what is going on. At one point, he looked around. He looked -- he sort of had a half smile and he said, this is all a theater. The real criminal is Bush. This is all about him trying to get his message across.

Hello? O'BRIEN: We can still hear you, Christiane. What you're saying is truly riveting, which is why I'm not breaking into asking questions. Do you have more to describe for me, what happened after he looked around and, clearly, seemed to be having some contentious moments in the courtroom?

AMANPOUR: They were ultimately contentious and simply questioning comments from him. Many times he kept saying, 'please' when he wanted to interrupt the judge or disagree with what the judge was saying. He kept using his hands in a gesture to get the judge to listen to him, to be allowed to speak.

At this arraignment he was allowed to speak -- it went on for about 30 minutes. We are being told that the judge would let it go for about 30 minutes, and indeed he shut it off when the 30 minutes was up. In the exchange between them -- he said, have you finished?

And the judge said, yes.

And Saddam said hullah, the Arabic word for its finished. And he stood up and he was led out of the courtroom. He said about the Halabja charge, the gassing of the Kurds -- I have heard about it in the media as well. They say it that happened during the reign of president Saddam Hussein. I have been elected by the people of Iraq. He needed to be tried, going through this process as president of Iraq.

He said that he did not know what to make of this process. I told you that he had said that it was just a theater. He smiled, looked around. Looked, as I say, constantly a little defeated but there were these moments of defiance.

He did refuse to sign the papers that confirmed that he had understood what had taken place, that he had been read his rights, that he had been told that he could have a lawyer. He said that he would only do that with lawyers present. There were no lawyers present at this hearing today.

When Saddam refused, the judge said, all right, in the name of the court, I record that you have been read your rights and that you understand what has happened.

Again, I repeat, he then asked if this is finished.

The judge said, yes -- and he was taken out.

Saddam Hussein came to the court from the detention place that he was being held at. He was helicoptered here, alone, except for the guards and the American helicopter pilots. There were no other detainees with him. He came in a first wave. He landed. He was put in a bullet proof, an armored bus that we are told is explosion-proof, on the American base here and driven to the room that is being used as a courtroom - that facility that's being used on this base as a courtroom.

He, I say, was dressed in civilian clothes. He wore a gray Jacket, a stark white suit, brown trousers, polished black shoes and he still had a beard. It was trimmed. It was not the shaggy beard that we saw when he was first brought out of that hole back in December. His face looked thinner. It was dark. He had big bags under his eyes and he looked very much a shadow of his former presidential self.

He was handcuffed in front of his body. There was a chain that around his waist as he was walked from the bus to the courtroom. There I could hear, from sitting inside the court I could hear the chains being undone and falling to the ground. I could hear the sounds of the chains as they were taken off him. His feet were not shackled, just his hands were cuffed in front of him. The cuffs were taken off before he came into the court. He was brought in by two very big Iraqi guards with ICS written on their caps - Iraqi Correctional Service, we understand. It was written in English on their caps.

Inside the court, he sat down. He faced some cameras, the pool cameras. There were just two reporters who were inside who were independent -- myself amongst them. There was a pool reporter. There were members of the Iraqi government , the new Iraqi government: notably, Mr. Muwaffaq al-Rubaie who held a national security portfolio, Salam Chalabi, who is the executive director of the special Iraqi tribunal that will eventually try the case when it is formally brought against him. There were members of the Department of Justice, American lawyers who are assisting the Iraqis in this process, there were representatives from the prime minister and the deputy prime minister's office, there was the judge that sat quietly, principally, reflectively, showed very little emotion, was firm, dealt with the situation quite firmly, but without any rancor -- never raised his voice, even when Saddam Hussein was jabbing his finger at him and asking, under whose jurisdiction was he brought before this court, there were two court reporters also taking down the official records and the official minutes of this. The judge would turn to them and tell him -- tell them what they should write down.

On the table, the judge had documents opened before him and there was a Koran wrapped in a green piece of cloth. And then the formalities began, as I say, the first thing the judge asked Saddam Hussein was, what was his name? And twice he said, I am Saddam Hussein, the president of Iraq. Back to you.

O'BRIEN: Christiane, you described the judge's reaction, saying that he really didn't have much of a reaction, but what about the reaction of others in the courtroom when Saddam Hussein finally walked in, chained at the hands, not at the feet? What was the mood in the courtroom? What is your sense?

AMANPOUR: Please understand, he was not chained when he came in the courtroom. He was only chained coming from the bus to what they call the courthouse. Before he came into the courtroom, those handcuffs were taken off. He was not there a criminal in the courtroom, merely an accused; and therefore he sat free of any chains, handcuffs or shackles, and he listened to what the judge had to say.

The reaction from the people inside was one, as you can imagine, of electrified anticipation. This is the man, especially for the Iraqis there, whose had been the omnipotent, the dictator, the man who brutalized perhaps their own family, certainly their country, for so many years. And as I say he arrived here in court looking a real shadow of his former self. You would not have believed that this was the man who we have seen so many times on the videos parading in military uniform, pinning medals on people's chests, defiantly talking about winning wars and fighting battles. This was not that Saddam Hussein. But he still some -- a little fight in him, a little vigor -- when he challenged the charges that were brought against him.

The most particular charge that he challenged was the notion that he had invaded Kuwait. He kept saying, this was rightfully part -- belonged to us. How could you accuse me of doing what I did, he said to the Iraqi people. They were trying to bring the price of oil down. They were -- it translates to me as the following sentence -- they were trying to turn Iraqi women into prostitutes for just $10. And he said, how can you defend those dogs -- talking about the Kuwaitis. And the Iraqi judge said, please do not use that language in this court. I remind you that this is a court of law and that language will not be tolerated.

Several times, Saddam Hussein raised his hand in the gesture to interrupt what the judge was saying with his fist and fingers together, shaking it at the judge and every time saying, 'please.'

He seemed to be fairly respectable of the judge. There was no untoward or rude interruption. It was always, please and then he would put his point across.

We are still waiting for the full and formal translation of what happened there. These are the initial quick translations of some of the points that I got.

O'BRIEN: And we should mention, Christiane, we're also still awaiting the videotape of this court proceeding. It was not being shown live, but as soon as we get a tape of the proceeding, we'll going to bring that, of course to our viewers.

You mentioned that Saddam Hussein was advised of his right to counsel. There are reports, of course, that his wife has hired for him some 20 non-Iraqi lawyers. Why were none of those lawyers actually allowed inside the courtroom with him?

AMANPOUR: No, because Saddam Hussein himself has never actually been asked whether he wants a lawyer and has never actually, personally, called for a lawyer because up until now, legally, he didn't need one. He was a prisoner of war, before. And now he is being transferred to the legal custody of the Iraqi criminal system here under the jurisdiction of the Special Iraqi Tribunal.

So, those lawyers that have been hired or called upon by the family are not officially, at this point, recognized as his lawyers. He has to ask for one. And we're told that under the statute of this special tribunal that his lead lawyer, the lawyer of record, must be an Iraqi, although international foreign lawyers could be on the team. But that still hasn't happened. At one point the judge told him that he -- you know, he had the right to legal counsel, that he had a right to a lawyer if he couldn't afford one, that one would be provided. A quick translation of what he said in response to that was, he looked at (AUDIO GAP) looked at all of us and he had a half smile, and he said, but people say I have millions stashed away in Geneva. Of course, I can afford a lawyer. Why shouldn't I afford a lawyer?

So, (AUDIO GAP)...

O'BRIEN: Christiane, it sounds like our connection is going in and out. I'm going to ask you another question and see if you can still hear me, and then maybe we'll see if we can get your audio back.

You mentioned that Saddam Hussein helicoptered in alone. There were no others on that chopper with him. But there are 11 others who have to go through similar proceeding. Did you see them there? Were they getting ready to have a similar proceeding right after Saddam Hussein? Or were there no others behind him at that time, this is something that will take place later in the day?

All right, it looks like we've lost Christiane. We're going to try to get her back again, because, of course, her description, Bill, was fascinating of what was happening inside that courtroom to Saddam Hussein.

HEMMER: Indeed. She describes a proceeding that lasted about 30 minutes in length. At times, Christiane describing Saddam Hussein as thin, tired, defeated, she used that word several times, and also used the word confused. Seven charges, preliminary charges read against him, ranging from the situation in Kuwait going back to 1990, to the Kurdish matters in 1993, and all of these charges being read for the first time there in Baghdad.

As we continue to track down Christiane on that phone again from Baghdad, our discussion continues with Samer Shehata, Arab reaction now. He teaches at Georgetown University Center for Contemporary Arab Studies. And, sir, good morning to you, professor, and thank you for your time.


HEMMER: Does this sound like the Saddam Hussein that you have studied?

SHEHATA: Well, yes. Saddam was clearly defiant. There were reports in the Arabic press that he said, "I am the glorious Saddam Hussein, good morning." He was confident, unlike what we heard just a second ago.

So, it does question the idea that it was wrong to invade Kuwait in denying some of the charges against him. So, clearly this is the same Saddam Hussein.

HEMMER: How do you conduct this proceeding in a fair way so that the Iraqi people are convinced of those proceedings? SHEHATA: Well, I think it's important to convince the Iraqi people and it's also important to convince the outside world, because you'll remember, Saddam's crimes go well beyond Iraq. They include crimes against Kuwait, crimes against Iran, really crimes against humanity.

So, the court proceedings do need to be transparent. There needs to be international monitors there. There are already questions really being raised and objections voiced by international groups about this procedure, about whether this court has any jurisdiction since it was formed under occupation, as it were.

So, I think the court really does need to go out of its way to make sure that there is complete transparency, international monitors are allowed to be there, and that Saddam Hussein does get his day in court, as it were. I don't think there's any doubt as to what the verdict or outcome is going to be.

Already in the Arabic press there were claims that the death penalty has been reinstated in Iraq. I don't know if that's true or not. And there was also a comment by Jack Straw, the foreign secretary in England, as well as comments in France, criticizing the idea of the death penalty. Because, as you know, of course, it's not allowed in Europe, as it were.

So, this is being followed very, very carefully in the Arab world. It's on the front page of all of the papers. All of the Arab satellite stations are covering it as well.

HEMMER: The Iraqi president made those comments earlier in the week that the death penalty has been suspended under the U.S. occupation. He says it will be reinstated now that the occupation is over.

If we can on the screen in a moment here, this is about the best idea we have regarding -- well, this is the picture of Saddam Hussein seven months ago in that jail cell with Ahmed Chalabi. There are also poll numbers that we've conducted here, CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup Poll, taken back in March, the first part of April, but it's the best glimpse we've gotten so far about how Iraqis feel about these proceedings.

The question: Should Saddam Hussein be put on trial? Eighty- three percent say, yes. Also in the questions it was asked: Do you think he's guilty of murder? Eighty-four percent say yes. Torture, 84 percent say yes. War crimes, 80 percent say yes.

When the Iraqis look at these proceedings, some are suggesting it might be very difficult to get the witnesses to testify, fearing for their own safety. Is that a concern that you have?

SHEHATA: Well, I think that there will be probably be some witness -- you are completely correct -- who will be reluctant to enter this courtroom. But certainly, there is a tremendous amount of evidence, as it were, collected by all kinds of organizations, Iraqi and non-Iraqi, about the extent of Saddam Hussein's crimes, whether it be Halabja, whether it be the use of chemical weapons, the invasion of Kuwait, the illegality of the invasion of Iran in 1980, and the list goes on.

So, I don't think there's going to be a problem with the evidence. But nevertheless, one needs to be very cautious about how things are perceived is, because clearly Saddam Hussein has committed crimes against humanity. But as you mentioned, not only Iraqis, but the rest of the world need to know and need to be convinced that this trial is conducted fairly and above the board and by the book.

HEMMER: Samer Shehata, we've never been here before. It's a day of history, that is for certain. Thanks. A professor there at Georgetown University. Nice to speak with you.

SHEHATA: Thank you.

HEMMER: More now from Iraq -- sure.

Here's Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Well, let's take you right back to Christiane Amanpour. As she mentioned, she was in the proceedings. She saw Saddam Hussein. She heard the seven charges, the preliminary charges read against him.

And Christiane, in fact, let's start with those seven preliminary charges. How will they potentially differ from what formally he could be charged with down the road?

AMANPOUR: Well, I think they will probably form the basis of some of the formal charges that he will eventually be presented with in a formal indictment. But right now, these are just charges under the preliminary arrest warrant, which just means that he can now be in detention under the Iraqi legal system.

But this presenting the indictments and making the investigation to actually make a formal indictment is going to be a fairly long process. It could take several months. So, this is really just the beginning of what now is going to be a fairly intense, as you can imagine, legal process -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Yes, one can imagine. Intense might actually be an understatement here, Christiane.

Let's walk through these seven charges once again. You started with he was charged with the invasion of Kuwait, first and foremost. What was his reaction to each of these charges as they were read to him? And what specifically were the charges again?

AMANPOUR: Well, there wasn't a reaction to each of them, but the ones that caused him to be most agitated was the charge that he had invaded Kuwait back in 1990. And he basically had a small outburst, not loud, but he was jabbing his finger.

And he basically said the same thing as he's been saying for the last 15 years since the Gulf War that this was not an occupation. This was our right. They were trying to lower the price of oil. How could you let them do that? I did what I did to protect the Iraqi people from these dogs, he said about the Kuwaitis.

At which point the judge said, I remind you that this is a court of law. You may not use that language, and you're not allowed to use that kind of language in this court. So, basically he stopped him at that.

Then, about the Halabja, the gassing of the Kurds, he basically said, yes, I heard about that in the media as well. They said it happened during the rule of President Saddam Hussein. So, he appeared to not obviously take responsibility for that.

O'BRIEN: There are 11 others, as you well know, who are also being charged with -- who are facing charges of war crimes and other crimes as well. You mentioned that Saddam Hussein flew in by chopper alone. Did you see the other 11 who are supposed to face similar proceedings?

AMANPOUR: No, but they are due to go in now. They may even be in there right now. There was a 15-minute break, and the other 11 were coming together by helicopter, U.S. helicopter, from where they're being detained to this court that was set up. And they will be brought in as a group. But in just to the courthouse, into the courtroom, they would be brought in one by one only. So, they will face the judge one by one. The judge expects their processes to be much, much, much shorter than the process of Saddam Hussein, which lasted about 30 minutes.

O'BRIEN: You have obviously had a lot of opportunity to talk to Iraqis about what they think of this approaching trial. What have they told you? What's been the reaction? I mean, do they fully understand the concept of having attorneys, of having charges read as opposed to just a judge will make a decision and he'll be put to death if that's what's deemed appropriate?

AMANPOUR: Well you know, a lot of people have asked for harsh punishment, reminding everybody that this is the man who so brutalized their country for so many, many years. But surprisingly, a lot of people on the streets have also asked for a fair trial. If he's guilty, let him be punished. If not, let them release him.

So, people have got mixed reactions, but you can imagine that, you know, people really do want him to be dealt with.

And just sort, I suppose, as a sample of reaction, inside the court there were several Iraqis, obviously some of the government ministers, the head of the Special Tribunal, representatives from the prime minister and the deputy prime minister's office, and some of their assistants, as well as the guards, the court reporters. And they -- you could see, they were riveted by this. They were listening so intensely. They obviously couldn't believe that this man, who so brutalized and terrorized them, was (AUDIO GAP) fairly forlornly for the most part, looking fairly lost, much thinner, really a shadow of what he used to look like.

When you imagine and you recall the larger-than-life figure that he was, partly because he never really appeared to them in person, all of this sort of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and the media and on television and this sort of cultist personality that had been built over the last 30 years was all of a sudden gone.

And when I came out, the guards who had been charged with bringing him in to the court, they gave me the thumbs up and said, yes, happy day. And it was remarkable, because these people now were able to escort him in, in a formal, judicial procedure. And, you know, they would never have had that ability before. Quite the reserve.

O'BRIEN: Well, absolutely. One can hardly imagine a sort of ordinary guard being able to escort in the former dictator of Iraq, someone whose reputation for brutality and horrific crimes really preceded him every step of the way. Christiane Amanpour, thank you for filling us in on what happened while you were there in the courtroom. We're going to continue to check back in with you.

And as I mentioned, we're expecting videotape of the proceedings as well. We're waiting for that videotape to make its way to us. And as soon as we get it, obviously we will share it with our viewers.

Thanks, Christiane -- Bill.

HEMMER: That is next angle on this story. Again, we don't know when that's going to happen, but stay with us. As soon as it does happen, we'll bring it to you first.

Also on the screen, there were 11 others in that courtroom expected throughout the morning today in Baghdad. Among them, you may recognize the names of the former deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz, best known really throughout the 1990s as the face of the Iraqi regime, the best known spokesperson, not only in Baghdad, but also when we was doing work here in New York City with the U.N., Ali Hassan al-Majid, better known at Chemical Ali. He was dubbed that based on the gassing of the Kurds back in the late '80s; 1988, in fact. Also, the former vice president, Taha Yasin Ramadan. All of these gentlemen on the list of 55 most wanted going back to the final days of the war with Iraq more than 14, almost 15 months ago.

As Christiane mentioned, one of the things Saddam Hussein said in court today -- I'm quoting now: "This is all theater. The real criminal is Bush."

A 30-minute proceeding there, now concluded for Saddam Hussein. We await the others now.

As we do that, attorney Frank Rubino defended Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega on drug smuggling charges back in the 1990s. He is our guest now live in Miami.

Sir, good morning to you.


HEMMER: I'm doing fine. Do you believe Saddam Hussein gets a fair trial in Iraq?

RUBINO: No, I can't believe that he can get a fair trial in Iraq. I think it would be most important that the trial be moved to the World Court at the Hague. In other words, how could you possibly, with the sentiment in Iraq, find 12 people as jurors who would tell you, I can put aside all of my personal feelings, I can be fair and impartial, and I can judge him solely on the evidence?

HEMMER: Well, as a defense attorney, that may be the wish. But do you think that's the reality in the end?

RUBINO: Well, the reality is he probably will go to trial in Iraq. He clearly will be convicted, and he clearly will be executed. It's a forgone conclusion.

HEMMER: Foregone?

RUBINO: There is no question about that. I mean, this is a case that is unwinnable.

HEMMER: How do you defend him, then?

RUBINO: Well, there's -- short of your change of venue, if you were forced to go to trial in that courtroom, there are two things that you would have to do. One, if possible at all, you would have to try to humanize Saddam Hussein, to convince a jury that he didn't have horns and a tail and he wasn't the reincarnation of Satan. That would be a hard task.

Your second job would be to go on a theory of plausible deniability that he, though, as the leader was not a micromanager and was unaware of certain things being done by those below him.

HEMMER: How long does this process take? We hear months before it begins. Some suggest this could be at the outset two years before an actual trial begins. Does that sound logical?

RUBINO: That sounds very realistic. It would take -- from what I understand, there are mountains and mountains of evidence. It may take six months, a year or more just for the defense to review the evidence and for the prosecution to gather additional evidence. Then the trial itself could take anywhere from six months to nine months.

HEMMER: To help us try and understand this, Saddam Hussein's wife apparently has hired 20 attorneys. What is the strategy you see developing with that number?

RUBINO: Well, obviously a case of this magnitude is going to take tremendous resources. Now, when we say 20 attorneys, we're not talking about 20 people sitting at a table next to him in the courtroom. He'll probably be actually represented in the courtroom by two or three lawyers. The rest of them will be behind the scenes, doing legal strategy, interviewing witnesses, preparing briefs and memorandums -- things of that nature.

HEMMER: Listening to you talk, I don't think you're giving this a fighting chance, are you?

RUBINO: Well, in all honesty, if the prosecutor came into the courtroom wearing a Ronald McDonald clown suit, put on absolutely no evidence whatsoever, the jury in 30 seconds or less would convict this man.

HEMMER: Thirty tons of evidence, that's the description we have anyway. This will be a case that will be tried in full view for the world to see. I know you're sitting in Miami, Florida, but the first dictator in the Arab world to be put on trial, what is the impact of a case like this?

RUBINO: Well, the impact is that he's being charged not only with crimes in his own country, but he's being charged with crimes against humanity, crimes against Kuwait, crimes against other countries. And I think the real impact is that he should be tried before an international tribunal since this involves international incidents. It's not a domestic case that should be before a domestic court.

HEMMER: When you defended Manuel Noriega, what was the challenge you faced in the court of public opinion?

RUBINO: Well, I didn't face the challenge of representing Saddam Hussein would ever be. Remember, General Noriega did not live and work in Miami, Florida, or the United States for that matter. He was in a foreign country 1,000 miles away, and he came here, and people knew who he was.

But what we've got here with Hussein, we have his victims being his chargers, and that didn't happen in Miami with General Noriega. Honestly, General Noriega received a fair, just and honest trial. I think Saddam Hussein will receive a fair trial, and very candidly I think he's probably guilty as sin. But the bottom line is, will his trial be perceived by the world as being a fair trial?

HEMMER: Final question here, Frank. Just in the interest of the law -- and you're a man who respects that I am certain -- what does this trial do for cases globally?

RUBINO: Well it does some good and it does some bad. Again, I gravitate back to the World Court at the Hague. It presents a problem to me legally for him to be charged in his own hometown, if you will, or within his own country. That presents a problem. But short of that, it's important that people who abuse their power are brought to justice. It's important that people do have their day in court. So, both sides have to be weighed. He is entitled to his day in court, and Iraq clearly is entitled to prosecute him, and that country is entitled to their day in court also.

HEMMER: Interesting perspective. Thanks, Frank Rubino, live in Miami this morning. Appreciate your thoughts -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Let's recap a little bit for you. Again, the proceedings against Saddam Hussein started around 7:00 this morning East Coast time here in the United States. He was described by Christiane Amanpour who was in the courtroom at the time as thin and tired and defeated as well. She said twice he told the judge when asked his name, he said, "I am Saddam Hussein, the president of Iraq." He was advised of his right to counsel.

She described him as somewhat slightly combative, that on occasion he would jab his finger at the judge, not necessarily yell or raise his voice. And he did ask, "Under whose jurisdiction is this court being run?" She said also that at times he appeared to be somewhat or a little bit confused when he was having his interchanges with the judge.

He faces seven preliminary charges. These are not the final formal charges. But they include the following things: the 1991 invasion of Kuwait, also suppressing the Shiite uprising after the 1991 Gulf War, and killing members of political parties and religious leaders as well. And, again, there are several other charges that he faces in a preliminary way added to that list.

Let's check in with Anderson Cooper again. He's been following this story and has spent a lot of time in Baghdad as well.

Anderson -- good morning to you.

Interesting description. Really I think it's fair to say riveting description from Christiane about what exactly happened inside that courtroom.

COOPER: Absolutely fascinating. Downcast but defiant were the words that she used. Saddam Hussein appearing in court, really for the first time we have seen him since he was apprehended back in December. The first time that Saddam Hussein has had to face justice, face the beginning. It is going to be a long process, no doubt about it, but today the hearing under way.

As you mentioned, the preliminary charges read out, seven of them, you mentioned three them. Also, suppression of the Kurds, gassing of the Kurds back in Halabja.

He had something -- he didn't respond to each of the charges as it was read to him today, though he is quoted as responding to some of them, saying that regarding the invasion of Kuwait, which he refuses to acknowledge as an invasion, he, as he has said all along, that Kuwait was part of Iraq. He said that they were trying to turn Iraqi women into prostitutes for just $10.

He also said he was trying to defend the Iraqi people from these dogs, dogs, of course, a reference to Kuwaitis. The Iraqi judges this morning admonished him, saying not to use that sort of language, reminding him that this was a court of law.

A very different turn of events for Saddam Hussein. Many Iraqis here, who were watching today were no doubt stunned, unbelievable, that not imagining that Saddam Hussein could ever face justice like this -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: And one has to imagine, Anderson, especially given the description that Christiane Amanpour gave us of the guards who actually escorted Saddam Hussein in and out. Anderson Cooper for us. We're going to, of course, continue to check in with you, Anderson.

Let's go right to Christiane Amanpour, who is at the convention center, I believe, if I recognize the background behind you.

Christiane -- I think your description of what happened has been fairly riveting. Talk to me a little bit about what Anderson just finished discussing for us, just the impact that this will have on the Iraqi people, especially sort of the regular folks. For example, those guards who escorted Saddam Hussein in and then out of the proceedings.

AMANPOUR: Well, I just raced back from the courtroom to this convention center, where we're going to get the video distributed. So, let me tell you about what we saw.

We saw, first of all, Saddam Hussein coming from an armored bus, explosive-proof we were told, a tan colored bus, very heavily armored. Coming out he was handcuffed. He had a chain around his waist. He was flanked by two Iraqi guards, and there were other guards standing on the stairs as he was coming down from the bus into the courthouse area.

He walked in. He was not shackled by the feet. He walked in. And then from inside the court, I could hear the chains as they were being taken off around his waist and the handcuffs were being taken off. And everybody was electrified and in such a state of anticipation, especially the Iraqis who were in the court -- the court reporters, members of the new Iraqi government, the head of the Special Iraqi Tribunal, some of the representatives from different ministries and their assistants. So, there were a few people there, Iraqis who were just electrified as he walked in. Of course, all of us were. We didn't know what to expect.

He came in quite dignified, quite quietly, with two burly guards, one on each side. And he was quite thin. His face was dark. He had big bags under his eyes. He has still a beard, although it's been cut and trimmed. It's black with white on the chin. He has his mustache still, but it's much, much more neat and tidy than you can imagine when he was pulled out of that hole December 13.

He was sat down in the chair where he faced a judge, who was sitting at a table across from him. On the judge's table was a Quran wrapped in green.

And then the judge started by asking him whether he understand what was going on. He first said, "What is your name for the record?" And twice Saddam Hussein said, "I am Saddam Hussein, president of Iraq." And we all, you know, were electrified. And, again, he said, "I am Saddam Hussein, president of Iraq." And he asked his age. He was asked whether he understood what was going on.

A little bit later he was read the actual changes. But that came after quite a lot of to and fro between Saddam and the judge. He started by asking, what is this court? Who are you? Under whose jurisdiction do you fall? I am the president of Iraq.

We're still waiting for the full translation of this, because this all was in Arabic. And by the way, we may not get the sound out of this. We're still negotiating to know whether the sound will be released. Because there was some feeling that the judge did not want this sound to be released in case Saddam used the opportunity as a big political platform.

Well, he didn't really. He was slightly defiant. In some instances he was downcast. He looked defeated at other times. He kept raising his hands like this in that very Middle Eastern gesture, asking the judge please stop. Let me ask you questions. And he said, "please" a lot, which I'm sure is a change for him. And he kept asking, what are the charges? Why am I here?

Eventually, after about 25 minutes of back and forth, he was read a series of charges, seven in all. Now, these charges are simply the preliminary charges under the arrest warrant that he was presented with. These are not the formal indictment. This is not what he will eventually be tried for under the jurisdiction of this supreme -- this Special Iraqi Tribunal.

These charges involve killing -- the intentional killing of religious figures back in 1974, gassing of the Kurds in Halabja in the '80s, killing the Barzani, the big Kurdish family in 1983, killing members of political parties over the last 30 years, the Anfal campaign, the suppression in March of 1991 of both the Kurdish and the Shiite uprisings right after the Gulf War, and then also the invasion of Kuwait.

It was the notion of Kuwait that got him the most agitated. He was jabbing his finger and trying to explain to the judge, how can you as an Iraqi accuse me of Kuwait? You know that this was not an invasion. How could it be an occupation? I was doing something for the good of Iraqis. Those dogs, he said, were trying to put the price of oil down, trying to turn Iraqi women to prostitutes for just $10. It was a bizarre rant.

And the judge actually told him to stop. He said, I remind you that that kind of language is not permissible. This is a court of law, and we do not permit that language. So he stopped after that on this particular issue.

About Halabja, the gassing of the Kurds, he said, yes, you said I was president at that time. Yes, I heard about this in the media as well. They said this happened when I was president of Iraq, when Saddam Hussein was president of Iraq.

He then said towards the end of this process, he was again asked whether he could afford counsel, whether he had any legal counsel, and if he couldn't afford it that it would be provided for him. At which point he looked at us, and he sort of had a half-smile, and he said, but everybody says, the Americans say I have millions of dollars stashed away in Geneva. Why shouldn't I be able to afford a lawyer? So, that was his wry remark to that. Then when the judge kept talking to him about the process and about the procedure, he kept saying, but I am president of Saddam Hussein. I cannot be stripped of my presidency by this occupation. Why am I being tried in your court? And the judge reminded him that according to the Geneva Conventions, you are stripped of your title, occupying powers, have the right to do that to you. So, they reminded him of his status.

He refused at the very end to sign the statement that he had been read his rights and that he understood what was going on. The judge said now after having the court reporters writing all of this down, he said, now you have to sign this. And he had a very, you know, official looking stamp, and he had a date stamp. And Saddam Hussein said, I won't sign it without my lawyers. The judge said, all right. On behalf of this court I enter the fact you have been read your rights and you understood what is going on. At which point, Saddam said, is this finished? The judge said yes. And Saddam said, helas. That's it in Arabic.

And he got up, and he was escorted out. And he is now being taken by helicopter back away from this court and taken back to the detention facility that he was brought from.

And that's it for the moment.

O'BRIEN: What happens next, Christiane? And we don't have a lot of time before we get to the start of our 8:00 hour when we'll chat with you once again. But what's the next step for this court?

AMANPOUR: Well, right now, the other 11 are going through the same process. So, there are 11 others, including Tariq Aziz, including Al Hassan al-Majid, known as Chemical Ali, responsible, accused of doing the gassing of the Kurds, also the defense minister and other top members of the regime. Then they all go back, and then the investigative judge gets to question them, gets to interrogate and ask questions of Saddam Hussein as they go forward with the massive investigation of evidence-collecting that they then have to put into a formal indictment.

These charges are not the formal charges under which he will be tried in the jurisdiction of this court. Those will be bigger charges, we are told. There will be charges such as genocide, crimes against humanity. Some of what he was read today will form the basis of the eventual crimes with which he will be accused. But this will take quite some time, we're told several months.

In the courtroom today there were Department of Justice officials who have been helping the Iraqi system here, this special tribunal work all of this out. And they were saying that this could take several months to gather all of that formal evidence. And then beyond that a trial will take several more months to be brought before the court. And we're told that Saddam Hussein at this point is not scheduled to be the first on trial -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right, Christiane, we're going to ask you, of course, to stick around with us as we continue to cover this story. Our coverage, in fact, of Saddam Hussein's court proceedings continues right now.


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