Saddam Hussein’s defense lawyers will attend next week’s trial of the toppled Iraqi dictator and seven co-defendants, dropping a threat to boycott the proceedings because of the recent assassination of two team members, a spokesman for the defense said Thursday.
“All the lawyers will attend the trial on Monday and a decision has been taken not to leave the president alone,” Issam Ghazawi told The Associated Press, referring to Saddam as president.
“We will not allow the court to appoint other lawyers,” Ghazawi said. “The lawyers are forced to attend the hearings, despite serious threats on their lives, but they want to do that to serve justice.”
On Oct. 20, the day after the trial began, attorney Saadoun al-Janabi was kidnapped by masked gunmen. His body was found the next day with bullet holes in the head.
On Nov. 8, defense lawyer Adel al-Zubeidi was killed in an ambush and a colleague, Thamir al-Khuzaie, was wounded. Al-Khuzaie fled the country and asked for asylum in Qatar.
Plea for increased protection
The defense has asked the authorities for increased protection and threatened to boycott the trial unless this was provided.
Were the defense lawyers to boycott the trial, the Iraqi High Tribunal would ask “standby” lawyers from its own Defense Counsel Office to step in, a U.S. official has told The AP in Baghdad.
The official in Baghdad said Wednesday American and Iraqi authorities have urged defense lawyers to accept their offers of the “most robust security possible.”
Ghazawi said the defense team had received no such offer. “We read about these things only in the media, but we have not received anything official from the court and I’m not aware that any of our requests have been answered,” he told the AP.
The lawyers had asked the court to provide them with extra protection, or housing inside the Green Zone in central Baghdad, which is guarded by the U.S. military. They had also called for a U.N. probe into the killing of their two colleagues.
The U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case, said the Iraqi tribunal expects at least one attorney for each defendant — including Saddam’s personal counsel, Khalil al-Dulaimi.
Saddam was captured by U.S. troops nearly two years ago after spending eight months on the run following the fall of his regime in April 2003. He and the others are charged in the 1982 deaths of more than 140 Shiites in the town of Dujail north of Baghdad following an assassination attempt against him there.