Saddam Hussein’s chief lawyer quit the Iraqi dictator’s legal team, saying Thursday some of the team’s American members were trying to run the defense and soft-pedal the U.S. occupation of the country.
Ziad al-Khasawneh also told The Associated Press that Saddam’s eldest daughter, Raghad, favors the Americans and non-Arabs on the defense team “because she thinks they will win the case and free her father.”
Al-Khasawneh said he tendered his resignation in a telephone call Tuesday to Saddam’s wife, Sajida, who is believed to be in Yemen.
“I told her I was resigning because some American lawyers in the defense team want to take control of it and isolate their Arab counterparts,” said al-Khasawneh, an Arab nationalist who has often expressed support for Iraqi resistance.
The Americans on the team include former U.S. attorney general Ramsey Clark.
Al-Khasawneh said Clark and Curtis Doebbler, another American lawyer helping defend Saddam, “have often asked me to refrain from criticizing the American occupation of Iraq and the U.S.-backed Iraqi government.”
Al-Khasawneh accused Saddam’s daughter of removing all files related to Saddam’s defense from his office. “I was away in Libya when she did all that without my knowledge,” he said.
Saddam’s legal team includes 1,500 volunteers and at least 22 lead lawyers who come from several countries, including the United States, France, Jordan, Iraq and Libya. No date has been set for the trial of Saddam, captured by U.S. troops in December 2003.
Raghad Saddam Hussein rejected the suggestion that she was trying to isolate the Arab lawyers on the team. There “are no differences between Arab and foreign lawyers,” she said in a statement written in English and sent to The Associated Press.
Al-Khasawneh’s resignation was “unfortunate” because he “provided significant contribution” to the legal team, she said.
Al-Khasawneh accused Saddam’s daughter of seeking to exchange the Jordan-based legal team with an international Emergency Committee for Iraq, which was announced last month in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
The committee seeks to ensure a fair trial for Saddam and other officials of the former Iraqi government ousted by U.S. forces two years ago, said former Malaysian leader Mahathir Mohamad, announcing the committee. Besides Mahathir, other co-chairs include Clark, former Algerian President Ahmed Ben Bella and former French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas.
Raghad Saddam Hussein said the committee would not replace her father’s legal team, but provide “political support.” She also said the defense team would refrain from making any more public statements.
Al-Khasawneh became Saddam’s chief lawyer in November, weeks after the dictator’s family dismissed Mohammed al-Rashdan, a prominent Jordanian lawyer who led the defense team, accusing him of seeking fame in the high-profile case that has drawn world attention.