Five former members of Saddam Hussein's regime — including one of his half brothers — will go on trial for crimes against humanity allegedly committed in retaliation for a failed attempt to kill the former dictator, a special tribunal said Monday.
The announcement marked the first time the special court has issued referrals, similar to indictments, the final step before trials can start.
No date was given. Due to a mandatory waiting period, at least 45 days must pass from Monday's referral before a trial can begin.
The five officials are facing charges of crimes against humanity for their alleged involvement in a crackdown in Dujail, 50 miles north of Baghdad, that was organized in retaliation for a failed 1982 assassination attempt against Saddam.
At least 50 Iraqis were allegedly executed in the Shiite town.
"This case is one of several cases being investigated," the tribunal said in a statement. "The detainees of this case are also accused of other crimes still being investigated."
The referrals were the first of many expected to be issued in coming weeks, including one against Saddam's notorious cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid (search), better known as "Chemical Ali." In December, investigative judges summoned al-Majid for closed-door preliminary hearings for his role in poison gas attacks against Iraq's Kurdish minority.
The three others on trial were identified as Awad Hamad al-Bander Al-S'adun, a former chief judge of the Revolutionary Court, Abdullah Kadam Roweed al-Musheikhi, and his son, Mizher Roweed al-Musheikhi. The latter two were local Baath officials in Dujail.
Saddam was captured north of Baghdad in December 2003, and others have been in custody for nearly two years.
U.S. military officials transferred 12 of the top defendants to Iraqi custody in June with the handover of sovereignty. They're being held at an undisclosed location near Baghdad International Airport, west of the capital, the tribunal said in a statement.
Another of Saddam's half brothers, a most-wanted leader in the Sunni-based insurgency, has been handed over to Iraqi officials by Syria.
The arrest of Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hassan ended months of Syrian denials it was harboring fugitives from the ousted Saddam regime. Iraq authorities said Damascus acted in a gesture of goodwill.
Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hassan was arrested along with 29 other fugitive members of the former dictator's Baath Party in Hasakah in northeastern Syria, 30 miles from the Iraqi border, officials said Sunday on condition of anonymity. The U.S. military in Iraq had no comment.