Raouf Rasheed Abdel-Rahman, a Kurd, will replace existing chief judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin, whoon Jan. 15 citing government criticism of the way he has handled the sessions, said Raid Juhi, the chief investigator who prepared evidence for the trial.
Amin's deputy, Saeed al-Hammash, had been touted as the next chief judge, but he has also been transferred from the case and replaced, Juhi told The Associated Press. Juhi insisted the removal had nothing to do with efforts to have al-Hammash booted off the court because of his alleged membership in Saddam's Baath party.
Al-Hammash denied ever joining the party.
Iraqi authorities were unable to convince Amin, also a Kurd, to withdraw his resignation, which is the latest complication in a trial which has already seen two defense lawyers assassinated and a judge step down, Juhi said.
Saddam and seven co-defendants have been on trial since Oct. 19 in the deaths of more than 140 Shiite Muslims in the town of Dujail in 1982 following an assassination attempt against the president.
In other developments:
Abdel-Rahman was a member of the Iraqi High Tribunal, which has been set up to hear allegations against Saddam. But he was not among the five judges hearing the Dujail case.
His appointment came as a surprise as al-Hammash, a Shiite Muslim, had been widely expected to replace Amin. Al-Hammash blamed Baathists, Saddam loyalists and others for his removal.
"This is a conspiracy," he told The Associated Press.
But Juhi said al-Hammash had been "transferred" to another chamber within the tribunal and that another new judge will to be brought in to replace him.
Last week, the Iraqi official in charge of the government's De-Baathification commission responsible for removing Baathists from official posts accused al-Hammash of being a Baathist.
Al-Hammash has denied belonging to the Baath Party and a U.S. official has said the De-Baathification laws introduced following the 2003 toppling of Saddam do not apply to the tribunal.