August 21, 2007

Judge’s Arrival Delayed Due to Safety Concerns

Print More

Originally published July 11.
The arrival of Cornell’s first Clarke Middle East Fellow Judge Ra’id Juhi Hamadi Al-Saíedi has been delayed because of lingering concerns about the judge’s safety.
Al-Saíedi, the former chief investigative judge of the Iraqi High Tribunal during the trial of Saddam Hussein, was originally slated to arrive in Ithaca over the summer, but meetings with city officials have since convinced the University to alter course. According to Simeon Moss ’73, director of Cornell Press Relations, there is now no concrete timetable for Al-Saíedi’s arrival on campus, but he is scheduled to arrive sometime this semester.
“We’re not bringing anyone here until everyone has the information they have requested and until they are satisfied with that information,” Moss said. “We’re going to make sure that we do our due diligence.”
In recent weeks, Cornell has been pressured by Ithaca Police Chief Lauren Signer to delay Al-Saíedi’s visit until the FBI can complete its evaluation of the judge’s security risk. Signer said she has heard nothing from the University about a possible delay in the judge’s visit, and said that a lack of communication between Cornell and her department has made it even more difficult to establish an appropriate security plan for his arrival in Ithaca.
“The message we keep getting is that he’ll be here on Friday,” Signer said. “The University seems to be saying, ‘Let’s bring him here and then deal with it,’ while my default would be to have him stay elsewhere until we get all the information about the level of threat. Let’s work from real information, and not from what [you] want to believe.”
Signer said that while Al-Saíedi and his family will be living in a house on the Cornell campus, the Ithaca Police Department is still responsible for the judge’s security. Al-Saíedi’s children will be attending school in the city of Ithaca, Signer said, and his family will inevitably integrate itself into the greater Ithaca community.
Vice Provost for International Relations David Whitman, who was involved in bringing Al-Saíedi to Cornell as a Clarke Middle East Fellow, said the FBI has called the judge’s arrival a low security risk.
“We will continue to monitor the situation,” Whitman said, “but we think this is something that is definitely manageable.”
Al-Saíedi was named the University’s first Clarke Middle East Fellow at the initial recommendation of Eric Blinderman ’99, who worked with the judge while serving as chief legal counsel and associate deputy of the Regime Crimes Liaison’s Office in Iraq. According to Whitman, Blinderman was eager to help Al-Saíedi when the judge wanted to begin research for a book in an academic environment.
“The sense of the University was that Judge Al-Saíedi is an extraordinary person who was at the heart of efforts in Iraq to restore a rule of law,” Whitman said. “He will be a real asset to anyone who hopes to learn more about the restoration of law and democratization in the Middle East, and in Iraq [in particular].”
Al-Saíedi’s role as a Clarke Fellow will not include a teaching position, Whitman said. He will be available to all students who want to learn more about the current status of the law in Iraq, and will be conducting research for his own book over the course of his stay on campus.