- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 8, 2005

Prosecutors and judges say they will press ahead with the trial of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and seven co-defendants — using appointed lawyers, if necessary — despite a boycott threat from defense lawyers after a second of their colleagues was killed yesterday.

Iraqi government sources told The Washington Times they were determined that the trial resume as scheduled Nov. 28, thinking that a firm hand with the former dictator will benefit the Shi’ite parties in Dec. 15 parliamentary elections.

Three masked assailants in an Opel sedan pulled alongside two of the defense lawyers near the Iraqi Bar Association head office and sprayed their car with automatic-weapons fire.

The attackers killed Adel al-Zubeidi, who was representing former Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan, and lightly injured Thamir al-Khuzaie, the attorney for Saddam’s half-brother, co-defendant Barzan Ibrahim al-Hassan al-Tikriti.

All the defense lawyers had spurned offers of official protection by the Iraqi Interior Ministry. Nor were they willing to move into the highly fortified green zone, which houses government offices, the U.S. Embassy and the trial venue.

Saddam’s main attorney, Khalil al-Dulaimi, told Al Jazeera television that the shooting was carried out by “an armed group using government vehicles.”

“The aim of these organized attacks is to terrify Arab and foreign lawyers,” Mr. al-Dulaimi said. “We call upon the international community, on top of them the secretary-general of the United Nations, to send an investigative committee because the situation is unbearable.”

He called for the trial to be moved to a neutral country, a request the Iraqi government previously had rejected.

The remaining lawyers last night reiterated a demand they had made after defense lawyer Sadoon al-Janabi was slain Oct. 20, refusing to appear in court unless the killers were apprehended.

The lawyers contend that a death squad exists, run by Shi’ites and likely operating from the Shi’ite-dominated Interior Ministry.

Their suspicions were heightened yesterday by the fact that the lawyers were picked off, even though they apparently had been changing cars and taking different routes each day.

If the defense lawyers do not turn up Nov. 28, Presiding Judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin plans to install “backup lawyers” appointed by the court, legal sources told The Washington Times.

Other sources said the court could issue an order for the lawyers to appear or risk substantial fine or being barred from appearing in any other cases in other courts.

The sources said the five trial judges might also agree to allow Saddam to represent himself — something he had indicated that he would prefer to do when he was interrogated by an investigative judge in pretrial hearings.

The latter option is understood to be strongly discouraged by the American advisory team, drawn from the State and Justice departments, working discreetly from within the U.S. Embassy, which is housed in one of Saddam’s former palaces.

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