2nd Hussein lawyer slain

November 09, 2005|By LIZ SLY

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- A second lawyer in Saddam Hussein's defense team was gunned down yesterday in Baghdad, calling into question the prospects that a fair trial can proceed in the current climate of violence.

Adil al-Zubaidi, who was defending former Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan, died when three men in a car pulled up alongside his vehicle and opened fire, according to witnesses and police. Thamer al-Khuzaie, a lawyer defending Hussein's half-brother, Barzan al-Tikriti, was slightly injured in the midday attack.

Also yesterday, a video posted on an Islamic Web site purported to show a U.S. helicopter downed by al-Qaida insurgents in western Iraq last week, along with the corpses of its two-man crew. The U.S. military confirmed last week that an AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopter crashed Nov. 2, killing two Marines on board, after a statement by al-Qaida in Iraq claimed to have shot down a chopper. But the Americans had no comment about the video.

The authenticity of the video and the statement, which bore the nickname of the group's spokesman, Abu Maysara al-Iraqi, could not be confirmed.

Al-Zubaidi is the second lawyer in the defense team to be killed in the three weeks since the trial of Hussein and his six Baathist co-defendants opened Oct. 19. The day after the trial began, Sadoun al-Janabi - who represented Awad al-Bandar, a former official in Hussein's Baath Party - was abducted from his office. His body was found dumped the next day, with gunshot wounds to the chest and head.

The 10 remaining members of the team, living in fear for their lives, probably will withdraw from the case altogether in coming days, said defense lawyer Majid al-Saadoun, who is also retained by Ramadan.

"We cannot do our jobs. It isn't safe," said al-Saadoun, who is thinking of leaving the country soon. "It's over. We've decided."

The team had announced it would boycott any further sessions of the trial until an international inquiry into the killing of al-Janabi was begun. The lawyers have spurned a government offer to provide them police protection because they believe militias loyal to parties in the government are behind the killings, al-Saadoun said.

Government spokesman Laith Kubba implied that Hussein loyalists might have been responsible for the killings.

"The government strongly condemns this assassination and believes that the only people who benefit from it are those who want to block the course of justice and move the trial out of Iraq," he said in a statement.

If Hussein were to be tried at an international tribunal such as the one hearing Bosnian war crimes cases at the Hague in the Netherlands, he would not be eligible for the death penalty, as he is in Iraq.

The killings call into question whether Hussein and his co-defendants can receive a fair trial, said Richard Dicker of the New York-based Human Rights Watch, who is monitoring the trial proceedings.

Liz Sly writes for the Chicago Tribune. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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