Hussein's attorney resumes boycott

October 31, 2006|By Borzou Daragahi | Borzou Daragahi,Los Angeles Times

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Saddam Hussein's lawyer ended a one-month courtroom absence yesterday, defending his client briefly before getting into another spat with the judge and leaving again.

Hussein and six co-defendants face charges of genocide in the killings of tens of thousands of Iraqi Kurds in 1988 by firing squads and chemical warfare attacks. Most of the victims were civilians, including women and children.

Citing disagreements with Chief Judge Mohammed Oreibi al-Khalifa, the defendants' privately retained attorneys stormed out of the courtroom Sept. 26. They were replaced by court-appointed lawyers.

Khalil al-Dulaimi and another defense attorney appeared yesterday before the judge, complaining about his decision not to allow non-Arab lawyers to represent the defendants and denying access to what they say is key evidence.

Al-Dulaimi told the judge that if he did not uphold their complaints, "we will continue our boycott of the court to prove to the world that this is a political trial and not a legal process."

"You may walk out," the judge replied to the attorney, who then left. Hussein's team of lawyers has periodically refused to cooperate with the court, arguing the forum is little more than a political show trial and an American-backed propaganda effort.

Hussein himself stood and spoke, questioning the judge's adherence to the court's own rules. The former Iraqi president said he didn't have to accept the court-appointed lawyers based on his reading of the law.

"The article does not oblige or necessitate for the so-called defendants to accept the attorney mandated by the tribunal, in spite of their unwillingness themselves to do so," said Hussein, who studied law in Cairo.

"The article however necessitates for the tribunal to mandate an attorney for the defendant who is unable to hire or bring a lawyer for himself."

The judge did not address Hussein's complaints, instead summoning the first of several witnesses who testified against the defendants.

Aisha Hama Ameen, 84, said Hussein's forces dropped chemical weapons on her small Kurdish village of Tutma near the provincial capital of Irbil during the holy month of Ramadan.

"I want him to suffer," she said. "It was Ramadan when he attacked us. Instead of sweets, he gave us poison. I want him to be poisoned as he poisoned us."

So far 65 of 80 scheduled prosecution witnesses in the Anfal case have testified during 19 court sessions. The trial is scheduled to resume today with more prosecution witnesses.

At a court session scheduled for Sunday in a separate case, Hussein and seven different co-defendants could be handed sentences of death by hanging for crimes committed against the villagers of Dujayl after a 1982 assassination attempt against Hussein.

Lead defense and prosecution lawyers have hinted that the date of the verdict could be postponed.

Borzou Daragahi writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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