A top election official said Tuesday that Iraqi law will allow Saddam Hussein and thousands of other Iraqi detainees who have not been brought to trial to vote in this weekend's crucial constitutional referendum.
However, Abdul Hussein Hindawi, one of the eight highest-ranking officials on the Independent Electoral Commission in Iraq, also said the organization was still awaiting a full list from the Interior Ministry and the U.S.-led coalition of the detainees who should be allowed to receive copies of the draft constitution and to vote on Saturday at Abu Ghraib prison and several other U.S. detention centers.
"All non-convicted detainees have the right to vote. That includes Saddam and other former government officials. They will vote," Hindawi said in a telephone interview.
Saddam's long-awaited trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 19 on charges that he and seven of his regime's henchmen ordered the 1982 massacre of 143 people in a mainly Shiite town north of Baghdad following a failed attack on Saddam's life. More than 12,000 detainees are being held at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, Camp Bucca and two other U.S. military camps in Iraq, many awaiting trial or, in some cases, formal charges. Many of the detainees are believed to be Sunni Arabs who were rounded up by U.S. and Iraqi forces on suspicion of supporting Sunni-led insurgent groups.
Across Iraq, militants are currently demanding that Iraqis boycott the referendum and have killed at least 345 people in the last 16 days in a series of attacks.
That included five Iraqis who were killed and 17 wounded Tuesday in eight separate attacks in the capital: a suicide car bomb, three roadside bombs and four drive-by shootings, police said. Some of the attacks targeted crowded areas near Iraqi police or army checkpoints. Monday's fatalities included a U.S. soldier and six Iraqis who died in Baghdad when a suicide bomber detonated a car full of mortars near an entrance to the fortified Green Zone, where Iraq's parliament and the U.S. Embassy are located.
The American death brought to 1,956 the number of U.S. service members who have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count, reports the AP. I.L.