- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 26, 2005

BAGHDAD — The Iraqi Bar Association says it will back attorneys for Saddam Hussein and his seven co-defendants, who are boycotting all involvement with the trial until security forces arrest the killers of one colleague.

Iraqi officials have threatened to start arresting the 12 surviving attorneys on the defense team if they continue a de facto strike begun earlier this week.

“The tribunal wouldn’t dare to order the lawyers’ arrests for not working, because they would have the full backing of all Iraqi lawyers,” bar association President Khamal Hamdoon Mulla Allawi told The Washington Times.

The special tribunal is set to reconvene in full session on Nov. 28, six weeks after it recessed during a dramatic first day on Oct. 19 when Saddam entered a plea of not guilty to charges of murdering at least 143 Shi’ites in a 1982 crackdown.

A day after the trial opened, gunmen claiming to be officials from the Interior Ministry dragged attorney Saadoun Sughaiyer al-Janabi from his Baghdad office, executed him and dumped his body onto a sidewalk.

In Amman, Jordan, yesterday, the defense team issued a statement saying it was impossible to work because of “the deteriorating security situation and its repercussions on the work of the Iraqi lawyers, and the continuous threats against their lives and their families that were demonstrated by the killing of the martyr Saadoun Janabi.”

In reading the statement, one of Saddam’s attorneys, Khalil Dulaimi, said the defense team and more than 2,000 affiliated lawyers had decided to “completely halt dealing with the tribunal.”

In Baghdad, Mr. Allawi of the Iraqi Bar Association reiterated charges that the Interior Ministry was involved in Mr. al-Janabi’s kidnapping and execution-style slaying.

“Witnesses say they saw 28 killers, allegedly there on behalf of Ministry of Interior. It will not take long; it is very easy to find them,” he said. “Until they do, we have decided that lawyers in that case must not work in court or cooperate with investigating judges.”

Senior Iraqi official Khudair Abbas rejected charges of Interior Ministry involvement.

“They are milking the incident for all it’s worth, but I don’t think the presiding trial judge will fall into their trap,” said Mr. Abbas, who is secretary-general of the powerful Iraqi Council of Ministers.

He was one of the few high government officials able to attend the first day of the trial, which was held in a small courtroom amid massive security.

“Though [the presiding judge] showed some weakness in letting Saddam make his little theatrical show on [Oct. 19], he quickly asserted control. And Saddam and the lawyers will just fall into line, I’m pretty sure,” Mr. Abbas said.

Mr. Allawi said the action was being taken not to delay the trial, but rather to protect the rule of law, which was predicated on attorneys acting in relative safety.

“As an association we do not interfere in politics, nor do we take any position on whether the trial is legal or illegal,” he said.

Mr. Allawi was referring to Saddam’s claim that the trial was illegal because it was set up by a regime beholden to an unlawful army of occupation.

Saddam later undermined that argument by entering a plea of not guilty, in effect recognizing the court’s legitimacy, lawyers said.

The slaying of Mr. al-Janabi has prompted speculation that the trial will not resume until after scheduled Dec. 15 elections for a new parliament.

The Shi’ite- and Kurdish-dominated government are eager to push ahead with the trial, in part to show strength in advance of the elections.

The trial faces delays for other reasons.

About of the 30 to 40 witnesses waiting to give evidence while cloistered in central Baghdad’s heavily fortified green zone are showing reluctance to take the witness stand. They want assurances that they will receive new homes and ongoing protection.

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