Legal Experts Analyze the First Day of the Saddam Trial

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," October 19, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: We continue our coverage of the trial of Saddam Hussein. Reuters reports that the chief judge trying Saddam says the main reason for the adjournment was because witnesses were too afraid to testify. Reuters reports the 30 to 40 witnesses for the prosecution did not appear inside the Baghdad courtroom today.

And joining us now, a former prosecutor in the trial of Yugoslavian dictator Slobodan Milosevic, Peggy Kuo, and the attorney who defends Nicaraguan dictator, Manuel Noriega, Frank Rubino.

We welcome you both.


COLMES: Peggy, what about these people afraid to testify? What does the prosecution do about that?

KUO: Well, it's a fairly predictable problem, because of the pressure and the fear that people have. The prosecution is going to have to deal with the people individually, speak with them, gain their trust, give them assurances.

COLMES: That could take a while, right?

KUO: It could. But it could also happen in the course of a conversation. You have to be very concrete about the kinds of protections...

COLMES: No surprises today that there was an adjournment? That's not a surprise to you?

KUO: No, not at all, for a number of reasons. I mean, the defense only had three weeks to prepare and so, obviously, they needed more time. And the fact that the witnesses were not here didn't surprise me.

COLMES: Frank, I was talking to Peggy just before we hit air here during the commercial break, and I asked her off the air, "How do we guarantee a fair trial, and what does that mean?" And she said, "A fair trial means there's actually a chance that the person's acquitted." Is there any chance to that here with Saddam Hussein?

FRANK RUBINO, DEFENDS MANUEL NORIEGA: Well, in this case, I have my doubts, because of — shall we say the selection of the jury, which is that five-judge panel, which are all Iraqi nationals. This is not a case being held at the World Court at the Hague where he would have international justices deciding his fate.

COLMES: Is that fair? I mean, can you get a fair trial, jury of peers? And there's some other things about — you know, you put him in a - - I guess he's being kept in a separate area. He can't confer with his attorney during the trial. It's not like our system of justice, much as we've, I think, sold this as perhaps our kind of justice in Iraq.

RUBINO: No, it's wholly unlike our system. In fact, I must tell you, I believe that our system of justice is the best in the world. It is a model system for the world.

COLMES: Would it be better, Peggy, if this were more like the way we do it in this country, with those kind of guarantees?

KUO: I think it would be better if it were more like what's happening in the international court, in terms of people from different countries and different backgrounds coming together and getting the best of the different legal systems.

COLMES: Should this be tried in a world court rather than in Iraq? As Frank points out, can you really get a jury to hear this properly? You already have witnesses who don't want to show up, don't want to be there.

KUO: Right, from a fairness and the perception of fairness point of view, it would be better to be in an international tribunal. But, I mean, obviously, there were political reasons and other reasons for a Iraqi court.

HANNITY: Hey, Peggy, I'm just trying to understand this. This is not in dispute. The evidence is incontrovertible. It's overwhelming in this particular case.

This is just one of many, many trials he's going to go through, with many, many witnesses, that will testify that he tortured and he allowed people to rape and he was well aware of the mass murder that took place while he was the head of his country.

We have video of him when he took power, listing people, calling them out by name, one out by one. These people were never seen or heard from again. That was the beginning of the reign of terror.

Let's not act like this poor man is, you know, not being treated fairly here.

KUO: Well, at the beginning of the trial, you always have to have an open mind. That's a basic bedrock of a fair trial. When I pick juries to try cases in Washington, D.C., you always ask, "Do you have any preconceptions"...

HANNITY: That's fair. But do you have any doubt in your mind he is a brutal murderer? It is overwhelming and incontrovertible, isn't it?

KUO: I have not seen the evidence personally.

HANNITY: You don't know that this man, with the torture chambers, the rape rooms, the images of the Kurds dead from the use of weapons of mass destruction, and all the testifying of all the people over the years, and the video of him drawing out his political opponents when he first took power, that's not evidence already for you?

KUO: You would have to certainly look at the evidence. You would have to look at the connection to him. You would have to see what he was - - what command and control he had at that point.

You know, going into the trial — it's one thing to say, as a journalist, or as a person living in the world, "Yes, I know he did it, and he's guilty." But if you're having a trial, if you're going to go through the process of having a trial, you've got to have an open mind.

HANNITY: Frank, do you have any doubt in your mind?

RUBINO: Well, you've got to understand, in a civilized world, we can't decide who gets a trial and who doesn't. We have to have equal justice for all...

HANNITY: I understand.

RUBINO: ... whether the evidence is overwhelming or the evidence is microscopic.


HANNITY: Do you believe, in this case, it's overwhelming and incontrovertible?

RUBINO: By all accounts in the press, it probably is. But because...

HANNITY: Probably?

RUBINO: ... it doesn't mean that this man is not entitled to the same trial that the lowest citizen in Iraq or the smallest person in...


HANNITY: What about when he pronounced Kuwait Iraq's 19th province, and he went in, and he and his thugs raped and pillaged an innocent country? What about the million people that died because of his actions in the war in Iran? What about the pictures of the Kurds in the north, the children laying dead in the street, because his soldiers unleashed chemical weapons there?

RUBINO: If all that evidence is presented...

HANNITY: It's all true, sir. That's historical fact.

RUBINO: ... if it's presented, it's credible, he should be convicted. But he's entitled to a trial.


RUBINO: Equal justice for all.

HANNITY: We have the only two people in the world that actually think he's innocent, right here on "Hannity & Colmes."

COLMES: Well, there is going to be a trial.


COLMES: Otherwise, why have a trial? Frank, thank you. Peggy, thank you very much.

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