Everett Iraqis watch Hussein trial closely

EVERETT – Kathem Alameedi spent most of the night pacing the blue carpet in his family’s small living room.

Even when his wife persuaded him to sit down, his knees shook.

Hers did, too.

After more than a month of postponements and a lifetime of terror, the Everett couple was up in the dark early Monday to watch as Saddam Hussein went on trial for his life in Iraq.

Hussein must die, Kathem Alameedi, 53, said, his dark eyes glued to the television set.

When that happens, he can take his family home.

“He’s been so hurt by Saddam,” said his son, Hassanein Alameedi, 22. “He’s been waiting for this moment.”

Kathem Alameedi and his wife, Afaq Shamari, 43, tuned their satellite dishes to a handful of Arabic-language television stations that are broadcasting the deposed dictator’s trial.

Kathem Alameedi knelt near the television, listening to Hussein rant during the proceedings.

As the hours passed, Iraqi friends called the Alameedi home. They, too, were up in the dark, watching.

Witnesses testified of torture, rape and murder. When Hussein shouted that his regime wasn’t involved, the Alameedis spit at the television. They laughed and mocked the former dictator.

During breaks in the action, an Iraqi television station showed footage of Hussein’s henchmen torturing prisoners. Women told how they’d lost years behind bars. There were photographs of mass graves.

“We’ve never had this kind of media before,” Hassanein Alameedi said. “Before, it was all about what Saddam did today, what Saddam will do tomorrow. Now, they talk about everything.”

Kathem Alameedi said he spent four years in one of Hussein’s prisons. He said he was arrested along with dozens of others who tried to build support for an uprising against the dictator.

At one point early Monday, Kathem Alameedi leapt toward the television, tapping the screen. He pointed at one of the defendants sitting near Hussein.

The room in Everett erupted in shouting.

“That’s him!” he said, his eyes wide. “That’s the judge who sent me to prison.”

Alameedi said he went into hiding for two years after being released from prison in Iraq. He hid to avoid going back, he said.

“Our uncle eventually made fake passports for us, and we ended up in Yemen,” his son said.

Nine years later, the United States granted the family refugee status.

“We couldn’t believe it,” Hassanein Alameedi said. “It was a dream to come somewhere where we could feel free.”

As time passes, another dream – that of returning home to a stable country – only grows.

There are about 500 Iraqis in Everett, said Adil Rikabi, a Baker Heights resident. Most plan to return to Iraq. For many, Hussein’s trial is a sign of hope.

“Everybody wants to” go home, Rikabi’s son, Watah Rikabi, 15, said. “We have land there, and we want to live on it.”

Kathem Alameedi, Adil Rikabi and others are grateful to the U.S. military for toppling Hussein. They said the continued U.S. presence in Iraq makes his trial possible.

“It will take a long time, but yes, there will be justice,” Kathem Alameedi said.

Reporter Krista J. Kapralos: 425-339-3422 or kkapralos@heraldnet.com.

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