updated 7/6/2004 6:48:30 PM ET 2004-07-06T22:48:30

Arab countries, including Libya, are contributing to a legal defense fund for toppled Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, a French attorney said Tuesday.

Emmanuel Ludot, one of 21 members of the legal team established to defend Saddam against charges of invasion, mass killings and suppressing revolt, said “diverse aid and diverse gifts” already had been donated.

He refused to specify how much money had been collected so far or reveal its origins, except to say some Arab countries have contributed and the eldest daughter of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, another member of the legal team, has offered some financing.

Aicha Moammar Gadhafi “wanted to provide her logistic and financial aid,” Ludot said. “It’s Libyan money. It’s welcome.”

Monies that Saddam allegedly holds in overseas accounts also could be used in the defense, he said.

Lawyers' money called ‘completely clean’
“Our job is to have this money freed up ... so that we can face all the expenses,” Ludot said. “I don’t despair that we can find someone in the United States to try to negotiate this.”

He added that the money in the lawyers’ fund was “obviously completely clean.”

The attorney said it was not possible to become “Don Quixotes of justice,” working for nothing and assuming expenses individually, especially considering how long the trial might take.

The committee hoped to extend proceedings as much as possible, Ludot said.

“They told us the trial would be long, complicated, that it would take two years. I don’t know,” Ludot said, citing Salem Chalabi, general director of the Iraqi court.

“Our work will be to do things in a way so that this tribunal doesn’t function, so that it is paralyzed for as long as possible.”

Unfair trial predicted
He reiterated earlier denunciations of the judges who will try Saddam and predicted that, as things currently stand, the trial would be unfair.

The lawyers’ committee wants Saddam tried by Iraqi judges as well as judges designated by the United Nations. Ludot cited the U.N.-sponsored war crimes court in Sierra Leone as a model of how Saddam should be tried. The trial of rebel military commanders accused in a 10-year campaign for control of Sierra Leone opened Monday.

The committee is led by Jordanian lawyer Mohammed Rashdan, who said he was hired by Saddam’s wife, Sajida, and two daughters. Ludot said Saddam should choose his own lawyers, but he has been barred from any outside contacts.

Saddam was formally handed over to the interim Iraqi government Thursday, although the U.S. occupying forces are overseeing his detention. The secret detention site is not far from the Baghdad airport, Ludot said without elaborating.

Asked when he believed Saddam’s trial could start, Ludot said, “Not before the American (presidential) elections. ... That’s a certainty.”

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