Saddam Hussein's family said Monday it has dissolved his Jordan-based legal team, canceling the power of attorney it had given to international lawyers in a move seen as reorganizing the ousted leader's legal counsel ahead of his upcoming trial.
Saddam's family said it has appointed Khalil Dulaimi as the "one and sole legal counsel." Dulaimi has been part of the Jordan-based legal team for the past year and attended some of Saddam's initial court hearings in Baghdad.
The family said it was "obliged to rearrange the legal defense campaign given the unique nature of the case," according to a statement signed by Saddam's eldest daughter, Raghad. It did not elaborate.
Family felt other lawyers were hurting case
A person close to the family who has knowledge of the case said Raghad and others were upset by statements issued by various lawyers and wanted only one legal voice to speak on Saddam's behalf. The person spoke on condition of anonymity so as not to hurt relations with the family.
The person added that the many subsequent powers of attorney issued by Saddam's legal team to other Arab and international lawyers also confused the family, but dismissed speculation that the future legal team may be composed mainly of foreign lawyers.
The family's statement did not single out statements that were upsetting.
But Saddam's former chief lawyer Jordanian Ziad al-Khasawneh, who resigned on July 7, claimed members of the legal team, especially Americans, had criticized him for rebuking the American occupation of Iraq and declaring the resistance as "legitimate."
He claimed former U.S. attorney general Ramsey Clark advised Raghad and other members of Saddam's family that such statements hurt Saddam's defense.
Former lawyer accused family of sidelining Arabs
When he resigned, al-Khasawneh accused the family of trying to give foreign lawyers, mainly Americans, total control of the defense team, and sideline the Arabs.
Monday's statement left the door open for future appointments.
"Any lawyer who would later be invited by the family to join the defense committee will be explicitly authorized by the family to make statements in due time," the statement said, adding "all powers of legal representation made by any member of the family or by (Saddam's legal team) to any lawyer or any other person are now deemed canceled."
Saddam's legal team included 1,500 volunteers — mainly Arabs — and at least 22 lead lawyers from several countries including the United States, France, Jordan, Iraq and Libya. Prominent among them was Libyan law professor Aicha Moammar Gadhafi, daughter of the Libyan leader, and Clark.
No lawyer was at Saddam's side when he was arraigned in July 2004 in Baghdad on broad charges that include killing rival politicians over a 30 year period; gassing Kurds in Halabja in 1988; invading Kuwait in 1990; and suppressing Kurdish and Shiite uprisings in 1991.
But the Iraqi Special Tribunal has allowed Dulaimi, the Iraqi member of the defense team, to meet Saddam at least four times this year, including twice when Saddam was being questioned.
Saddam is expected to stand trial this fall in the first of several anticipated trials for the former leader and his chief lieutenants. No official date has been set.