Monday, October 31, 2005

Saddam lawyer wants trial moved to The Hague

A defence lawyer for ousted Iraq president Saddam Hussein has written to UN chief Kofi Annan calling for the court trying Saddam on charges of crimes against humanity to be moved to The Hague.

"We submit to you our request for your involvement and your good office in the present circumstances to call upon the US authority and the present government of Iraq to review the legal status of the present court and to reallocate the present court outside Iraq, i.e. The Hague, Netherlands," said the letter to Annan from defence lawyer Najib al-Nawimi.

He called for the court to be given "independent and impartial international judges" and also for pressure to be put on the Iraqi authorities and their US backers to recognise Saddam and his co-defendants as prisoners of war.

Mr Nawimi reiterated that his client refused to recognise the legitimacy of the Iraqi High Tribunal and again hit out at the obstacles placed in the way of the defence.

Prosecutors "did not hand over to the defence team a copy of the accusation list, neither granted us a proper access to our clients nor to have sufficient time as we had requested (for) three months," he charged.

Mr Nawimi also complained of serious security concerns following the assassination of Saadun Janabi, an attorney representing one of Saddam's co-defendants, earlier this month which he blamed on elements within the Iraqi interior ministry.

"Though they have denied the present governments involvement, the material witnesses, we have proved the involvement of the present government in the assassination, which kept all the defence team feeling that they will be the second to be assassinated," he wrote.

"We are in a very dangerous situation where the present Iraqi government has no control over our security to attend and participate in such a trial."

Mr Janabi was murdered the day after Saddam and seven co-defendants went on trial on charges related to the 1982 massacre of Shiite civilians from the village of Dujail. The case was adjourned until November 28 after all eight men pleaded not guilty.

The lawyer's assassination already prompted Saddam's Amman-based defence team and lead Iraqi counsel Khalil al-Dulaimi to announce Wednesday that they were suspending all contacts with the court on security grounds.

"In view of the dangerous security conditions in Iraq and their impact on Iraqi members of the defence team, along with the never-ending threats against them and their families... a decision has been taken to fully suspend all contacts with the Iraqi Special (now High) Tribunal," their statement said.

-AFP

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