A court has decided to begin the first trial of Saddam Hussein (search) on Oct. 19 and is in the process of notifying his legal team, an official said Friday.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to make the formal announcement, said the date was chosen so that Iraqis would have completed the referendum on the constitution before the start of the trial.

Iraqis go to the polls Oct. 15 to decide whether to accept or reject the new constitution, which is opposed by many in Saddam's Sunni (search) Arab community.

On Thursday, another official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said the decision had been taken to start the trial between Oct. 15 and 20.

Saddam and three co-defendants will stand trial for the 1982 massacre of Shiites (search) in Dujail, a town north of Baghdad, after a failed assassination. Saddam could receive the death penalty.

Other co-defendants in the case are Barazan Ibrahim, intelligence chief at the time and Saddam's half brother; former Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan; and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, at the time a Baath party official in Dujail.

Saddam 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.