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Lawyer: U.S. bears some blame for killing
Updated: 2005-11-10 00:40

Saddam Hussein's lawyer said Wednesday that U.S.-led "occupation forces" bear some of the responsibility for the slaying of a second colleague in the trial, and the defense team signaled it may not show up for the next session without international security guarantees.

Relatives carry the coffin of Adel al-Zubeidi during his funeral, in Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2005. Adel al-Zubeidi, lawyer for former vice president Taha Yassin Ramadan, died Tuesday when bullets sprayed his car in a largely Sunni Arab neighborhood of western Baghdad. The shots also wounded Thamir al-Khuzaie, attorney for another co-defendant, Saddam's half brother Barazan Ibrahim. [AP]

Khalil al-Dulaimi, head of Saddam's legal team, spoke one day after Adel al-Zubeidi, lawyer for former Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan, was killed by gunmen in west Baghdad. Thamir al-Khuzaie, attorney for another co-defendant, Saddam's half brother Barazan Ibrahim, was wounded.

The attack followed the slaying last month of another defense lawyer, Saadoun al-Janabi, who was found shot to death the day after the trial began Oct. 19. The killings raise doubts about Iraq's ability to hold the trial, although the Iraqi government dismissed calls to move or halt it. The second session is set for Nov. 28.

In a statement, the defense team said it considered that date "null and void" in the wake of the attacks because of "the very dangerous circumstances that prevent the presence" of the attorneys "unless there is a direct, neutral international intervention that guarantees" security.

After the first slaying, the defense lawyers announced they had suspended further dealings with the special court trying their clients until their security was guaranteed. The latest statement appeared to harden that position in wake of the latest killing.

Abdel-Haq Alani, a key coordinator on the defense team, told The Associated Press by telephone from London that the United States was obliged to protect the lawyers as "the occupying power," a status the Americans say they do not have since sovereignty was transferred to the Iraqis on June 28, 2004.

Asked whether defense lawyers would be in court Nov. 28, Alani replied: "I believe not."

There was no reaction from the court to Wednesday's statement, but officials have said that if defense lawyers refuse to appear, the tribunal could appoint a new team.

Al-Dulaimi, speaking in the insurgent hotspot of Ramadi, brushed aside government suggestions that pro-Saddam insurgents or religious extremists were behind the killings.

"The occupation forces are responsible for this criminal incident, and they bear the responsibility of preserving the lives of the people regardless of their identity," he said. The "Iraqi government also has the responsibility to protect people and put an end to such actions."

He called on "all free people, the United Nations, the Arab League, Arab presidents and kings and the Arab Bar Association to shoulder the responsibility to face the tyranny of the criminal gangs that are targeting the country."

President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd and longtime Saddam opponent, also condemned the assassination and urged the rest of the defense team to accept government protection, which they had refused.

Regardless of who was responsible, the killing of another defense lawyer reinforced grave misgivings among human rights groups and international lawyers about holding the trial in a country gripped by a brutal insurgency — much of it led by the defendants' supporters in the Sunni Arab minority.

"I don't understand how you can have a fair trial in this atmosphere of insecurity, with bombs going off," said Richard Goldstone, the first prosecutor at the U.N. tribunal for war crimes in the former Yugoslavia and one of the world's most prominent jurists.

He told the AP by telephone that Iraq's government should consider shifting the trial to an Arab country "where there is security."
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