Raouf Rasheed Abdel-Rahman, a Kurd, will preside at the trial that resumes Tuesday, replacing chief judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin, who submitted a letter of resignation on Jan. 15 amid complaints of government criticism in the process, said Raid Juhi, the chief investigator who prepared evidence for the Dujail case.
Juhi said Iraqi authorities were unable to resolve the standoff with Amin, also a Kurd, whose resignation was the latest complication in the case which has already seen two defense lawyers assassinated and a judge step down.
Abdel-Rahman is a judge for the Iraqi High Tribunal set up to hear cases against Saddam and other former regime figures, but he was not appointed to the initial five-member judicial panel that has been hearing the Dujail case since it began Oct. 19.
His appointment comes as a surprise. Amin's deputy in the trial, Saeed al-Hammash, was expected to replace the judge in line with the Iraqi law running the tribunal.
But al-Hammash has been under pressure since the Iraqi official in charge of purging government of members of Saddam's former ruling Baath Party accused the judge of being an ex-Baathist.
Al-Hammash has denied belonging to the Baath Party, and a U.S. official has said the de-Baathification laws introduced after the 2003 toppling of Saddam don't apply to the tribunal.