Saddam's Lawyer says tribunal illegitimate
A lawyer for Saddam Hussein on Tuesday condemned plans to try the former Iraqi leader by a U.S.-funded special court, saying it is illegitimate, and claimed that he and other members of his defense team have been denied access to the former Iraqi leader.
Saddam and his 11 top lieutenants have been held for months in an undisclosed location, believed to be near the Baghdad International Airport, west of the capital. They appeared before the Iraqi Special Tribunal in July 2004 to face preliminary charges from the former regime.
Ziad al-Khasawneh, who heads Saddam's defense team, said the special court does not meet the requirements necessary to ensure a fair and safe trial, and said he believes there are no grounds to try Saddam in the first place.
"Whatever is built on illegality is illegal. Everything after the occupation ¡ª the temporary government, the elections ¡ª are illegitimate," he said at a news conference in Tokyo, where he is trying to raise support.
Al-Khasawneh said that under Iraqi law, Saddam and his colleagues were immune to criminal charges, and that they are thus not liable under international law, either.
"Iraqi law before the occupation must apply," he said.
The legal proceedings against Saddam, meanwhile, appeared to be moving forward, albeit slowly.
On Monday, the special court announced five former members of Saddam's regime will go on trial for crimes against humanity allegedly committed in retaliation for a failed attempt to kill the former dictator.
The announcement marked the first time the special court has issued referrals, similar to indictments, the final step before trials can start. No dates were given.
The five include Barzan Ibrahim al-Hassan al-Tikriti, one of Saddam's half brothers, and former vice president Taha Yassin Ramadan. The three others were senior Baath Party members.
The tribunal, which is run according to Iraqi laws on criminal procedure, could sentence some of those found guilty to die by hanging or firing squad.
Al-Khasawneh said he has not had access to most of the information about the charges against Saddam and complained that no one from the defense team has met with Saddam since November.
"President Saddam is isolated from the outside world," he said. "He is in a small cell and not allowed to meet his attorneys or family members, despite repeated requests. He doesn't have TV or radio and he isn't allowed to read the newspapers. He doesn't know anything about what is going on."