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Lawyers: Saddam, co-defendants to boycott
Updated: 2006-02-13 09:39

The dock at Saddam Hussein's trial will stand empty on Monday, according to lawyers for the former Iraqi president, who said he and his seven co-defendants will continue their boycott when proceedings resume.

The hearing will mark the latest troubled chapter in the trial of Saddam and his co-defendants for the killing of nearly 150 Shiite Muslims after the former ruler survived a 1982 assassination attempt in the town of Dujail north of Baghdad.

"As far as I know, neither the president and other defendants, nor the defense team, will attend the resumed hearings of the illegal court, which is biased in the case and can't give the defendants a fair trial," chief attorney Khalil al-Dulaimi told The Associated Press in Amman, capital of neighboring Jordan.

The defendant's doc remains empty after former Iraqi President Saddam Hussien, his co-defendants, and defense team, do not arrive for their trial in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone.
The defendant's doc remains empty after former Iraqi President Saddam Hussien, his co-defendants, and defense team, do not arrive for their trial in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone. [AFP]
"We boycotted and we will not go back unless our demands are met," he said Sunday. The defense team has called for the replacement of the trial's new chief judge, Raouf Abdel-Rahman.

In Baghdad, another defense lawyer, Khamis al-Obeidi, added: "Our boycott of the trial continues. It's a show trial and our presence will give the court legitimacy." Al-Obeidi spoke in Baghdad.

Judge Abdel-Rahman, a Kurd, took over last month after his predecessor stepped down amid criticism over his handling of the trial, during which Saddam and his half brother and one-time intelligence chief Barzan Ibrahim hurled abuse at witnesses and interrupted the proceedings.

The defense claims that Abdel-Rahman is unfit to try the case because he was sentenced to life in absentia in the 1970s for anti-state activity. Saddam became president in 1979, but was Iraq's most powerful man for several years before that.

In his first session in charge on Jan. 29, Abdel-Rahman tried to restore the court's authority by ejecting one defense lawyer, prompting the rest to leave in protest. Saddam and three co-defendants were also allowed to leave or forcibly removed, and the judge appointed replacement defense lawyers.

In the following session Feb. 1, only three defendants attended; none showed up the next day.

Monday's session is expected to include testimony from former regime figures and the presentation of documents allegedly indicating the ousted ruler's knowledge of the torture and execution of Shiite Muslims from Dujail, court officials have said.

Twenty-six prosecution witnesses have testified since the trial began Oct. 19, many detailing torture and imprisonment but none directly linking Saddam to their ordeal.

Prosecutors are expected to submit the first of hundreds of documents implicating Saddam in every step of the investigation, torture and death of the Shiites.

The implications for a long-term absence by the defendants and their lawyers is unclear. There are precedents in international law for trials to continue without the defendants in the courtroom, including cases before the U.N. International Criminal Tribunal for atrocities in Rwanda.

But it will likely raise questions about the proceedings' fairness, which human rights groups criticized even before the trial began. Many observers express skepticism that a fair trial could be held in Iraq so soon after the 2003 overthrow of Saddam's regime or in a country gripped by an insurgency, which includes many Saddam loyalists.

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