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Saddam prosecutor says demoted for whistle-blowing

BAGHDAD - The chief prosecutor who tried Saddam Hussein said on Friday he had been demoted and transferred after speaking out against what he described as "financial and ethical corruption" in the Iraqi High Tribunal.

Jaffar al-Moussawi also said he believed he was being punished for calling for the death sentence given to Saddam's former defence minister, Sultan Hashem, to be reduced.

He said the Iraqi High Tribunal (IHT), set up to try former members of Saddam's regime, had transferred him from Baghdad to the northern city of Sulaimaniya as an investigative judge.

The head of the tribunal, Abdul-Razak al-Shahine, could not be reached for comment. His son said he was travelling in the United States and that no telephone number was available to contact him. The tribunal does not currently have a spokesman.

Dressed in his red and black prosecutor's robes, Moussawi became a familiar face during Saddam's televised 2006 trial for crimes against humanity. Saddam was hanged on Dec. 30, 2006.

"The decision to remove me was made after I wrote a memo on January 14 to the IHT head disclosing legal breaches and violations committed by judges inside the court," Moussawi said.

"The more serious issue which I mentioned in my memo was the financial and ethical corruption inside the court."

He also said he was being targeted for his request to the court to reduce Saddam minister Hashem's death sentence.

Hashem was sentenced to death along with Saddam's cousin, Ali Hassan al-Majeed, known as "Chemical Ali", and former army commander Hussein Rashid Muhammad for their part in the 1988 Anfal campaign in which tens of thousands of Kurds were killed.

Their executions have been delayed by a legal wrangle between the Shi'ite-led government and President Jalal Talabani and Sunni Arab Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, who both oppose Hashem's execution. All three prisoners remain in U.S. custody.

Hashem, a Sunni Arab, is a popular former general who fought in the 1980-1988 war against Iran and is regarded by many Iraqis as a courageous soldier who should not be executed for following orders. The government wants him executed as soon as possible.

Moussawi said the tribunal did not have the power to transfer him. This could only be done by the presidency council, which includes Talabani and Hashemi.

"The prosecution is an independent body and is not under the authority of the court. I will never obey this order," said Moussawi, who served as chief prosecutor for three years.

Moussawi has also been overseeing the prosecution's case in the ongoing trial of former Saddam regime members for their role in crushing the Shi'ite uprising in southern Iraq in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War.

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