Saddam Hussein’s chief lawyer says he has moved into the green zone in central Baghdad after surviving two assassination attempts in the past week and that he will attend Monday’s reopening of the trial of Saddam and seven co-defendants.
Attorney Khalil Dulaimi told The Washington Times on a mobile phone from Iraq yesterday that gunmen had tried to ambush his car, but were repulsed.
He also said gunmen had fired at his home near the city of Ramadi in western Iraq. He gave no further details of either incident, except that both had happened in the past week.
“I’m convinced these were Shi’ite death squads — the same type of people who attacked my colleagues,” Mr. Dulaimi said.
Two members of the 13-lawyer defense team who attended the Oct. 19 opening of the trial have since been assassinated.
Mr. Dulaimi and other members of the defense team had threatened to boycott the trial but said yesterday they would show up on Monday, when the trial resumes after a six-week recess.
The decision to attend the hearing came largely because the lawyers were advised that the court would have appointed a new team of defense attorneys and proceeded with the case anyway, legal sources said.
Mr. Dulaimi and his colleagues had previously spurned U.S. and Iraqi government offers to house them inside the green zone, a large swath of central Baghdad that is protected from attack by high concrete barriers.
Mr. Dulaimi made the dangerous journey into the city and into the zone, which contains the U.S. Embassy, several of Saddam’s grandiose palaces and government villas and a specially constructed courtroom for Saddam’s trial.
Iraqi and American soldiers guard the exterior, while a private security firm oversees much of the zone’s internal security.
The prosecution team and the special court’s judges have been housed inside the zone, as are many of the witnesses expected to be called in the next few weeks.
Saddam and seven co-defendants are on trial for the 1982 massacre of nearly 150 Shi’ites from the town of Dujail near Baghdad, viewed as retaliation for an assassination attempt against Saddam.
Leaflets distributed in Dujail last week warned potential witnesses that they faced death if they gave evidence in the trial.
Attorney Saadoun al-Janabi, who was shown on television during the Oct. 19 trial opening, was kidnapped and executed by gunmen a day later.
“Witnesses say they saw 28 killers, allegedly there on behalf of Ministry of Interior,” said Khamal Hamdoon Mulla Allawi, president of the Iraq Bar Association. “It will not take long; it is very easy to find them.”
On Nov. 8, defense lawyer Adel al-Zubeidi was killed in an ambush and a colleague, Thamir al-Khuzaie, was wounded. He has since fled the country.
Officials in Iraq’s Shi’ite- and Kurdish-led government deny charges that the Interior Ministry was involved in the assassinations.
“It’s very much against our interests. It gives the defense team a chance to delay and damage the process, by portraying themselves as unable to do their work. They can have protection anytime they ask for it,” said Khudair Abbas, secretary-general of the Iraq government’s Council of Ministers.
“They’ve been milking the incident for all it’s worth — but I knew the presiding trial judge would not fall into their trap. I was confident that Saddam and the lawyers would eventually just fall into line,” Mr. Abbas told The Times.
Mr Abbas has taken a personal interest in the trial and was one of the few high government officials able to attend the historic opening day in a small courtroom amid massive security.
The trial was adjourned after a few hours, and it is to resume for four days this week.
Also yesterday, a prosecutor said a key witness in the case has died of cancer, but his testimony has already been taped for presentation in the proceedings, the Associated Press reported from Baghdad.
Wadah Ismael al-Sheik died Oct. 27, four days after talking to court officials, said Jafaar al-Mousawi, the main prosecutor. He said the testimony at a U.S. detention center was “on the side of the victims.”
Distributed by World News & Features.