Hussein's lawyer: trial 'illegitimate'

Saddam Hussein's lawyers won't defend their client against charges that he ordered at least 140 people killed in an Iraqi village 23 years ago. Instead his defense team will rest on rejecting the entire legal process as illegitimate and rigged.

Khalil Dulaimi, the lead defense lawyer, says he'll tell the Iraqi Special Tribunal that the court is illegal and unconstitutional. He'll say that the investigative judges restricted meetings with his client and hindered other key steps in assembling a proper defense.

The court "is built on the US invasion and they had no legal reason or motive to invade this country, not from the Security Council or the United Nations. That means everything built on that foundation is illegitimate," Mr. Dulaimi told the Monitor. "The rights of my client are being violated in a very obvious way by the Iraqi and American governments and that is unacceptable."

The tribunal was created by US occupation authorities and was funded by Washington.

Dulaimi is expected Wednesday to ask the court for more time to prepare his case, saying he was only given 15 days. The five judges, who received training in Britain, hearing the case are expected to adjourn to consider Dulaimi's requests and may not resume the trial for weeks.

"They did this on purpose. They did this to not let us concentrate and to shatter the defense," says Dulaimi, a Baghdad lawyer who was hired by Mr. Hussein's oldest daughter, Raghad Saddam Hussein, last year.

But the tribunal said in an Aug. 10 statement that evidence had been given to the defense lawyers: "Defense counsel were informed by a notification warrant explaining the rights and duties of the defense .... They were informed about all obtained evidence in the Al-Dujail case, and were provided the copies of witness testimony," it said.

Hussein and seven other top officials in his regime are being charged with ordering the massacre in the village of Dujail in 1982 in retaliation for an assassination attempt on Hussein there. A motorcade carrying Hussein through the town dominated by the majority Shiites was fired upon by several gunmen. The city north of Baghdad was also known to be a stronghold of the Dawa Party, a Shiite Islamist group that had worked for years as an opposition movement to Hussein and to which membership was punished by death under Hussein.

After the attack, the participants that survived fled to Iran. One of the party's earliest members who lived in exile for decades after several family members were killed by Hussein's regime is the current Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari.

Dulaimi has met with Hussein on several occasions but he was barred from exchanging any documents and was not allowed to see him alone, all things he says made it impossible to build a strong defense. "All these meetings were worthless," he says.

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