Iraqi bar urges suspension of Saddam trial

The Iraqi Bar Association has officially urged lawyers to suspend cooperation with the special court hearing the case against Saddam Hussein until the murder of a member of the defense team is solved. The association also passed a resolution calling a one-day strike for Oct. 26 to protest the killing of Saadoun Janabi, who was bundled out of his Baghdad office Oct. 20 by heavily-armed men and later found dumped on a roadside, dead of gunshot wounds.

“The purpose behind this assassination was to prevent lawyers from doing their duty,” said bar association president Khamal Hamdoon Mulla Allawi. “Protecting lawyers will be possible only if the killers are caught and put behind bars.”

Iraq’s government has condemned the murder, which some human rights groups said could have a “chilling effect” on Saddam’s defense team and dim hopes for a fair trial.

Janabi appeared in court the day before his abduction, representing Awad Hamad al-Bandar, one of Saddam’s seven co-accused at the start of their trial for crimes against humanity. He was one of several lawyers who used the nationally-televised opportunity to challenge the legitimacy of the tribunal, which was set up under US occupation.

Witnesses said Janabi’s abductors wore military uniforms and identified themselves as employees of the Interior Ministry, often accused by Sunni Arabs of sanctioning hit squads run by Shi’ite militiamen. The ministry has denied the allegations. The government has strongly denied any involvement in the murder, saying it was ready to boost the already-tight trial security.

Badia Arif, a lawyer representing several Saddam aides — including longtime foreign minister Tariq Aziz — said he received a death threat in the mail several months ago. “If the authorities here cannot protect us, will this killing help convince people abroad that these trials must be moved outside of Iraq?” Badia asked. (Reuters, Newsday, Oct. 22)

Meanwhile, Saddam Hussein’s Jordan-based defense team has accused Iraq and the US occupation of refusing to allow non-Iraqi lawyers to meet the ousted leader as his trial begins in Baghdad. “The defendant, his family and his court-appointed lawyer have requested that the defendant be allowed to meet with a number of lawyers, namely Mr Ramsey Clark and Mr Najeeb bin Mohammed al-Nuaimi,” they said in a statement. “All meetings have been denied by the United States and Iraqi governments,” the statement said.

Saddam is being represented in court by a lone Iraqi lawyer Khalil Dulaimi. Clark is a former US attorney general and Nuaimi a Qatari lawyer and former government minister. The statement also repeated complaints by Dulaimi that he “has not been permitted adequate time or facilities to prepare a defense.” (IOL, South Africa, Oct. 19)

See our last post on the Iraq horror-show and trial of Saddam Hussein. Note that a judge in the tribunal has also been assassinated, by presumed insurgents.