- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 1, 2005

AMMAN, Jordan — Saddam Hussein’s attorneys have planned an appeal to a higher Iraqi court, the Appeals Chamber, if the special court trying the ousted Iraqi leader and seven co-defendants refuses to divulge the names and track records of four of the five judges.

“We will never get to the merits,” attorney Issam Ghazawi told The Washington Times on returning to Amman after a hearing in Baghdad earlier this week.

Mr. Ghazawi, an elegantly dressed 50-year-old who runs a legal practice in Amman, said, “We are not interested in delaying the court, but we are interested in the truth.”

He and five other members of Saddam’s newly constituted legal team, including former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, had a one-hour meeting with their client on Monday during a recess in the trial.

It was the first time since his arrest in December 2003 that Saddam met his attorneys without a U.S. guard being present.

“We will appeal to the higher court on every point, one by one,” Mr. Ghazawi said.

Saddam had signed a power of attorney for Mr. Clark in his prison cell and, at the start of Monday’s sessions, signed powers of attorney for Mr. Ghazawi and another lawyer from Qatar.

The men are officially advisers to Saddam’s two Iraqi trial attorneys, but Mr. Ghazawi said Mr. Clark had provided the key advice on legal and political matters.

“First of all, we demand to know details about the judges, who are they, have they ever practiced as judges?” Mr. Ghazawi said. “Let us see their credentials. Any who do not have sufficient experience, we will demand that they be replaced. And do any of them have any grievance against our client?”

Although Chief Judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin has been identified and seen on videotapes of the trial, the other four judges have remained anonymous for security reasons.

Mr. Ghazawi conceded that Chief Judge Amin had conducted the first two days of proceedings fairly, although he argued that this was a facade concealing their legal frailty.

“The [chief ] judge is doing his best to run a professional court. He is wearing the face of a gentleman, but we don’t know what is inside,” Mr. Ghazawi said.

The legal challenges are expected to begin in earnest when the trial resumes Monday. Saddam will meet with the attorneys Sunday to discuss tactics, Mr. Ghazawi said.

Saddam is on trial in the 1982 killings of more than 140 Shi’ites from the town of Dujail, near Baghdad, in a crackdown after a failed assassination attempt on the dictator.

The defense attorneys said Saddam did no more than sign death-sentence warrants — an act that Mr. Ghazawi said is similar to President Bush’s 152 death-sentence confirmations when he was governor of Texas.

If convicted, a new law obliges the authorities to hang Saddam within 30 days of a failed appeal. A quick execution could prevent trials for other crimes, such as the 1988 poison gas attack on the Kurdish village of Halabja that killed an estimated 5,000 people.

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