Global Policy Forum

Baghdad Confirms Saddam Trial Date


September 3, 2005

The Iraqi government has confirmed Saddam Hussein's trial date is set for 19 October and his family has chosen a new international lawyer to defend him against war crimes charges. "We have formed a legal defence team that includes prominent American, European, Asian and Arab lawyers who were chosen on the basis of competence and merit to put up a strong defence," said Abd al-Haq al-Ani, legal adviser to Saddam's eldest daughter, Raghad, who is authorised to act on behalf of the family.

Iraqi government spokesman Laith Kubba confirmed that Saddam and several aides will go on trial on 19 October on charges of killing dozens of Shia villagers at Dujail in 1982. On Friday, a government source, who is not attached to the Special Tribunal trying the deposed president and his aides for crimes against humanity, forecast a quick trial and execution.

Publicity and fame

In meetings in Amman this past week, Raghad approved the make-up of the defence team that would be charged with handling her father's trial, Alani said. "This capable team will be entrusted with preparing the defence case when the trial begins and disputing its legality and procedures that deny the president justice," al-Ani added. Al-Ani, who is closely involved with the legal deliberations, said the identity of the new counsel would not be revealed for the time being.

Last month the family revoked the right of attorney for Western and Arab solicitors claiming to represent the former Iraqi leader, saying publicity and fame was a bigger motive for many of them than defending Saddam. Saddam's trial will begin a few days after a referendum on a new constitution that the Iraqi authorities hope will bury the legacy of his rule. The first charge involves the deaths of possibly more than 140 men from Dujail, north of Baghdad, where Saddam survived an assassination attempt in 1982.

Saddam's approval

Khalil al-Dulaimi, the only lawyer authorised to represent the toppled Iraqi leader and who attends Saddam's court hearings, will show Saddam the names of the new defence team sometime next week to get his approval, al-Ani said. More than 2000 lawyers had volunteered for Saddam's defence team, including former US attorney-general Ramsey Clark and a daughter of Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi.

Al-Ani said the first task of the new team of legal experts would be to get full access to the jailed former leader, saying justice could not be done without Saddam getting professional legal advice. "If the Americans allow us to meet him there will be a chance to put a defence case and hammer the point that this trial is illegal," al-Ani said. Without official documents presented by the Iraqi judicial authorities, or approval to bring more lawyers to defend Saddam, the ousted leader's basic legal rights were being violated, he added. "Until now we cannot get on with the task of disputing the illegality of the trial or any charge because no official document has been presented so far. It's our right to see the charges," al-Ani said.


Another member of Saddam's defence team, Ziyad al-Najdawi, blasted the announcements by spokesman Kubba, in comments made to Aljazeera. "He (Kubba) is attempting to cover the failure of those in charge of the current government in Iraq, those who have come aboard an American tank." Al-Najdawi believes that the announcement is nothing but a way to deceive the Iraqi people and prove that an Iraqi government and some legal organisations exist. "At the same time, it is an attempt by the so-called appointed Iraqi government to prove to the Arab world that it is capable of making decisions," al-Najdawi added. "This comes although everybody realises that Iraq is living under occupation," he added.

Asked what his expectations of the trial were, al-Najdawi said: "We know that these people are spiteful. Their behaviour is sectarian. "Saddam Hussein's trial is a political one." Al-Dujail, he continued, happened in 1982 "following an attack against Iraq's legitimate President Saddam Hussein". "The President is legally allowed to order his security authorities to investigate the incident in order to learn what the circumstances of the attack were," he added.

Stirring passions

The trial may stir passions among some minority Sunni Arabs, who dominated Iraq under Saddam and before.In some demonstrations this week against the new constitution, his face has reappeared in public, on placards and posters. Saddam's followers also play a role in the violence against US troops and forces loyal to the Shia-led government. The trial, which officials have said will probably largely be televised, will be held in a specially prepared building inside the fortified Green Zone government compound which was once Saddam's presidential palace complex on the Tigris.

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