Republican Congressman Steve King says during a visit to Iraq this fall, he met with three of the five judges who are now trying former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
The meeting happened in August of this year.

King says he asked the group if they had the jurisdiction to try Hussein, since Iraq’s new constitution hadn’t yet been ratified. King says the judges told him they did, and if Hussein is found guilty, they’ll have a range of punishments similar to those meted out in federal courts in this country. The death penalty is one of their options, according to King.

The court proceedings have been bogged down with delays, and Hussein himself has lambasted the judges, claiming they don’t have the right to try him. King says Hussein’s demeanor in court shouldn’t be that much of a surprise. “He’s been a dictator. He’s a tyrant. He’s murdered hundreds of thousands of people,” King says. “Belligerence is what we’d expect from Saddam.”

King salutes the judges. “I am extraordinarily proud of the courage that they demonstrate,” King says. “Their lives are on the line. They’re standing for truth, justice and the Iraqi way.” Two lawyers involved in the case have been murdered, and few witnesses have been able to testify so far. The trial is to resume December 21st. The charges against Hussein in this trial relate to the deaths of over 140 Shiite Muslims in 1982, allegedly in response to an assassination attempt on Hussein.