- The Washington Times - Friday, October 21, 2005

BAGHDAD — The body of a lawyer for one of Saddam Hussein’s co-defendants was found yesterday after his abduction by armed men, prompting calls for the tribunal to be moved out of Iraq or at least out of the violence-riddled capital city.

Even before the trial began, judges had asked that it be moved out of Baghdad, only to be rebuffed.

“We believe that — for everyone’s safety and also so it can be a fair, unbiased trial — it should take place outside Iraq,” Khamees Hamid al-Ubaidi, one of Saddam’s lawyers, said yesterday.

Mr. al-Ubaidi added that if government continues to insist that Saddam should be tried by Iraqis in Iraq, “anywhere is better than Baghdad.

Gunmen abducted lawyer Saadoun Sughaiyer al-Janabi from his Baghdad office Thursday afternoon.

Sources told The Washington Times that the men arrived at Mr. al-Janabi’s office wearing suits and said they were employees of the Shi’ite-dominated Interior Ministry. They entered his office and dragged him away, speeding off in two trucks.

His body was discovered on a sidewalk by the Fardous Mosque in a predominantly Sunni Muslim area of Baghdad.

Mr. al-Janabi had appeared on television Wednesday during the opening day of Saddam’s trial with seven other defendants. He was representing Awad Hamed al-Bandar, the former head of Saddam’s Revolutionary Court.

The slaying also gave new impetus to a request by judges, before the trial began, that hearings take place in northern Iraq, an area controlled by the minority Kurds and protected from terrorist attacks by Kurdish Peshmerga fighters.

Two of the judges for the tribunal, named the Special Criminal Court, recently told The Times that they had made the request for a change of venue in a letter to Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari.

They said that they feared for the safety of their family members, even though they themselves were well protected by being confined to the heavily fortified “green zone” in central Baghdad.

“We feel like prisoners, and we’re very worried. To try cases, you need a degree of tranquility of mind and a feeling of safety, and we have neither,” one judge said.

The request was turned down and neither judge could be reached for comment yesterday.

Of the tribunal’s 15 judges, five are sitting in the first trial of Saddam and seven co-defendants for the 1982 killing of at least 143 Shi’ites from a town near Baghdad.

One judge in Special Court was killed before the Saddam trial began, and an Iraqi Bar Association spokesman said more than 10 judges in Iraq’s criminal and civil courts have been slain since 2004.

The faces of four of the five judges in the current proceedings were not shown on television Wednesday, and their names remain secret.

No one expects the trial to be moved.

“Huge amounts of time and money and assets went into creating and securing a safe courthouse in the best-protected part of Baghdad,” said a Western official familiar with the arrangements.

He added that the main impetus for holding the trial in Baghdad was to drive home a political point: that the fallen dictator and his cronies would be held to account in the capital city they once ruled.

Iraqi officials said that they had offered to provide security for the defense lawyers but had been rebuffed.

“The government exerts its best efforts to provide security for all people and all those involved in the trial, but we cannot provide total security because of the violence in the country,” government spokesman Laith Kubba said.

Last night, several defense lawyers said they were keeping a low profile in their homes or seeking safety outside Baghdad.

The trial was adjourned Wednesday until Nov. 28, and lawyers yesterday sought an additional delay until their security could be assured.

Saddam’s chief attorney, Khalil al-Dulaimi, said defense lawyers had been receiving many threatening e-mail, phone calls and text messages in recent months.

Mr. al-Janabi said little in Wednesday’s hearing as he and the other defense attorneys sat in two rows of desks near their clients.

The obvious assumption was that the killers chose to slay Mr al-Janabi because they had seen him on television — with silver hair and a dark black moustache — defending a man who, as head of the secret Revolutionary Court, had sentenced thousands to death.

But government officials suggested other forces could have been at work in the lawyer’s slaying.

“We do not know who was behind this operation. Is it designed to hinder the trial process or is it a case of vendetta?” Mr Kubba asked.

In other violence, four American soldiers were killed in insurgent attacks, the military said yesterday. Nearly 2,000 members of the U.S. military have been killed in Iraq.


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