updated 9/24/2006 12:17:42 PM ET 2006-09-24T16:17:42

Saddam Hussein’s defense team will boycott his genocide trial indefinitely, citing violations by the Iraqi court trying him, his chief lawyer said Sunday.

“The court committed several violations of the law and we will not just sit there gagged to give it legitimacy,” said Khalil al-Dulaimi, who is in charge of a nine-member defense team for the deposed Iraqi leader.

He said the lawyers would “indefinitely” boycott the trial, in which Saddam faces charges of committing genocide against Kurds in northern Iraq.

The trial—Saddam’s second—resumes Monday in Baghdad.

One of the key violations is the Iraqi High Tribunal’s refusal to hear non-Iraqi lawyers in the case, and the requirement that non-Iraqi attorneys apply for permission just to enter the courtroom, al-Dulaimi said.

“These are our counselors and it’s their right to be present in the courtroom without a prior permission from the court,” he added.

He said another reason was the abrupt replacement of the chief judge in the trial.

‘Not a dictator’
In a sudden move last Tuesday, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki approved a request by the Iraqi High Tribunal, the country’s supreme court, to remove the top judge.

Abdullah al-Amiri was replaced by Mohammed Oreibi al-Khalifa, who presided over a turbulent session last Wednesday in which he threw the former Iraqi president out of court, and his lawyers stormed out in protest.

Al-Amiri was removed after angering Kurds by declaring 10 days ago that Saddam was “not a dictator.”

‘Flagrant violation’
The ousted president and seven others are on trial for the Operation Anfal crackdown on Kurdish rebels in the late 1980s. The prosecution says about 180,000 people, mostly civilians, were killed.

Al-Dulaimi said replacing the judge was a “flagrant violation of the law because it was dictated by the government and not the court.”

“They claim that it’s an independent court, but it’s not,” al-Dulaimi said.

He criticized the competence of al-Khalifa, the new chief judge, saying he graduated in 2004 -- a year after the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam. “Besides, he lacks the experience and the caliber needed in this trial,” he added.

Softening his tone on the boycott, al-Dulaimi said Saddam’s defense team “hopes that the court will listen to our requests and that’s when we’ll go back to the courtroom.”

Asked about the legal repercussions of the boycott on the trial if the court appointed new lawyers, al-Dulaimi said: “Our boycott will certainly give momentum to (Saddam’s case) because we are exposing the illegitimacy of this court.”

“Would any fair person accept that we attend this trial as a formality and stamp prearranged decisions?” he asked. “Would any rational person accept that we give legitimacy to this illegal court?”

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