BAGHDAD, Iraq – The Iraqi tribunal confirmed Sunday that the chief judge in Saddam Hussein's trial has asked to resign but said no decision has been made on whether to allow it.
Meanwhile, the international team assessing the Dec. 15 parliamentary election said it would release its final report Thursday. Iraq's election commission has said it is awaiting the report before certifying the vote results, which would open the way for forming a new government.
The tribunal said Judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin submitted his resignation for "personal reasons" and not because of government pressure. It said the trial of Saddam and seven co-defendants would reconvene Jan. 24 as scheduled despite the uncertainties surrounding Amin.
A member of the five-judge panel headed by Amin told The Associated Press that the tribunal was still considering whether to appoint another judge to take Amin's place. He said officials had asked Amin to reconsider.
"Tomorrow, things will be clear," said the judge, who along with the three other judges under Amin has not made his identity public for security reasons.
Amin submitted his resignation after becoming fed up with criticism that he had let the Saddam proceedings spin out of control, a court official told AP on Saturday.
"One of the reasons behind his resignation is the statements by officials, including the justice minister, criticizing him for his performance in the court. We do not yet know the results of the meetings between our delegation and Rizgar," the judge on the panel told AP on Sunday.
Saddam has often grabbed the spotlight during the nearly 3-month-old trial. He has railed at the judge, refused to show up at one session, claimed he was tortured and openly prayed in court when the judge would not allow a recess.
The former leader and his co-defendants are charged in the deaths of more than 140 Shiite Muslims from the town of Dujail who were killed in retaliation for a 1982 assassination attempt on Saddam. Conviction could bring a sentence of death by hanging.
Amin would be the second judge to step down in the case. Another member of the panel removed himself in late November because one of the co-defendants may have been involved in the execution of his brother. That judge was replaced.
Since the trial opened on Oct. 19, two defense lawyers also have been assassinated and a third has fled the country. Police also uncovered a plot to fire rockets at the courtroom in late November.
The executive manager of the international team looking into fraud complaints filed after Iraq's parliamentary vote said the panel would release its final report Thursday and would forgo an interim report that had been expected in the next few days.
"The work of the team has been going fast, so we decided there is no need for a preliminary report," Mazin Shuaib said.
Iraq's election commission has said it would review the monitors' findings before releasing final election results. An official said the commission would release its own report on the vote a day or two after getting the findings of the international team.
Although leading politicians have expressed hopes a government could be formed in February, most experts and officials agree it could take two to three months, as it did after the January 2005 election for an interim government.
The governing United Iraqi Alliance, a Shiite religious bloc, has a strong lead, according to preliminary results. But it won't win enough seats in the 275-member parliament to avoid forming a broad-based coalition with Sunni Arab and Kurdish parties.
In violence Sunday, gunmen in Baghdad killed two policemen and a former Iraqi army officer in three separate shootings, police said.
Officers also found three bodies at a sewage plant in the southeastern part of the capital. Their hands and legs were bound and they had been shot numerous times, police Lt. Mohammed Khayoon said.
To the north of Baghdad, police found the bodies of Brig. Mohammed Mahrous Mohammed and his guard on a highway between Kirkus and Beiji. The two were abducted two weeks ago, police Brig. Sarhat Qadir said.