Saddam's defense team threatens to boycott
Updated: 2005-11-10 08:44
The defense team in Saddam Hussein's trial said Wednesday it will not show up
for the next session Nov. 28 unless the court accepts its demands for "neutral
international intervention" to guarantee security.
The declaration followed the assassination Tuesday of a second defense lawyer
in the trial, already threatened by the insurgency and questions about legal
standards. Adel al-Zubeidi, lawyer for former Vice President Taha Yassin
Ramadan, was killed by gunmen in Baghdad and another attorney was wounded.
Khalil al-Dulaimi, head of the defense team, told reporters the U.S.-led
coalition and the Iraqi government bear some responsibility for the
assassinations because they have been unable to maintain order in a country
wracked by insurgency — much of it fomented by Saddam's supporters.
Al-Dulaimi released a statement declaring that the defense considers the Nov.
28 trial date "null and void" because of the "very dangerous circumstances that
prevent the presence" of the attorneys "unless there is a direct, neutral
international intervention that guarantees" security.
Abdel-Haq Alani, a key coordinator on the defense team, was asked by The
Associated Press whether he expected the Saddam lawyers to appear in court Nov.
28. Alani replied: "I believe not."
Khalil al-Dulaimi, chief lawyer for Iraq's
former president Saddam Hussein, holds a letter indicating that he will
stop all dealings with the tribunal trying Hussein, during an interview in
Ramadi November 9, 2005.[Reuters]
He told the AP by telephone from London that the Americans were obliged to
protect defense lawyers as "the occupying power." The United States maintains
that status ended when the coalition returned sovereignty to the Iraqis on June
Saddam and seven co-defendants went on trial Oct. 19 in the deaths of 148
Shiite Muslims who were executed after an 1982 attempt on the former president's
life in Dujail, a Shiite town north of Baghdad. The defendants could receive the
death penalty if convicted.
Also Wednesday, the U.S. command announced that a U.S. Marine died of
injuries suffered when a roadside bomb exploded near his vehicle two days
earlier in western Iraq. The death brings to 2,055 the number of U.S. military
service members who have died since the start of the war in 2003, according to
an AP count.
Elaborate security measures have been taken to protect judges, prosecutors
and witnesses in the Saddam trial, including keeping their names secret as long
as possible. Concern for the safety of the defense team rose when lawyer Saadoun
al-Janabi was abducted by masked gunmen the day after the opening session. His
body was found later with bullets in his head.
After al-Janabi's killing, the rest of the defense team announced they were
suspending dealings with the special court trying their clients until their
security was guaranteed. The latest statement appeared to harden that position.
However, the government says the defense twice turned down offers to move
into the heavily guarded Green Zone, where the courtroom is located, for the
duration of the trial. President Jalal Talabani renewed the offer Wednesday.
In an interview with Time magazine the day before his death, al-Zubeidi, a
Shiite, said he was working on the defense team because of his allegiance to the
law and not to the Sunni-dominated former regime.
"We are professionals. We are not related to a political party," al-Zubeidi
said. He told the magazine he spent 14 months in jail in the 1960s and 1970s and
had a history of Shiite radicalism.
The Iraqi High Tribunal, which is trying the case, expressed regret over the
attacks on the lawyers but said it would "spare no effort" to "achieve justice"
in the case. The statement appeared to rule out halting the trial or moving it
out of the country.
"The tribunal will take every necessary step to guarantee that all the
defendants have a complete defense in the next sessions," the statement said.
"This includes any necessary procedures in this regard, which the tribunal
already offered to guarantee the safety of the defense council and their
Officials said last month that if defense lawyers refuse to appear, the
tribunal could appoint a new team.
The killings have reinforced doubts among some human rights groups and
international lawyers about holding such an emotionally charged trial in a
country gripped by an insurgency. Shiites dominate the current government, and
Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari's Dawa Party has claimed responsibility for
the assassination attempt that triggered the Dujail killings.
The trial also risks heightening tensions between majority Shiites, who were
oppressed under Saddam, and the minority Sunnis, who dominated his government.
As an example of sectarian tensions, two car bombs exploded Wednesday night
near a Shiite mosque in Baghdad, killing six people, police said. Five policemen
were killed when a suicide car bomber struck a patrol near Baqouba, 35 miles
northeast of Baghdad.
Police in the northern city of Kirkuk confirmed Wednesday that the brother of
a leading Sunni Arab politician was kidnapped the day before by gunmen wearing
army uniforms. Hatam Mahdi al-Hassani is the brother of parliament speaker Hajim
Sunni insurgents have threatened members of their community who take part in
politics, but Iraq also has numerous criminal gangs involved in kidnappings.
In Baghdad, a driver for the Sudanese Embassy was shot to death Wednesday as
he left the Palestinian mission, police said. The attack followed the abduction
last month of two Moroccan Embassy employees.
Statements attributed to al-Qaida in Iraq claimed responsibility and said the
two had been sentenced to death. The group also said it was behind the
kidnap-slaying in July of three diplomats as part of a campaign to cut ties
between Muslim countries and the Iraqi government.