News and Information

Saddam sees lawyer for first time
December 16, 2004
Former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has had his first meeting with a member of his defence team since he was captured just over a year ago.

The meeting took place in an undisclosed location in Baghdad.

He and 11 aides are in US custody awaiting trial on war crimes and genocide under an Iraqi tribunal.

A spokesman for the Jordan-based defence team said he believed the former Iraqi leader's trial would not begin for at least two years.

Iraq's interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said on Tuesday that trials of some of his close associates would begin next week.

Western diplomats said the proceedings would not amount to more than preliminary hearings.

'Morale high'

Saddam Hussein's family recently dismissed the head of his defence team and appointed new lawyers.

The legal spokesman said Thursday's meeting was in Baghdad but the lawyer was taken to the location with a blindfold, the BBC's Jon Leyne reports.

Lawyer Ziad al-Khasawneh said Saddam Hussein looked much better than he did during a preliminary court appearance several months ago.

"He was in good health and his morale was high and very strong," he told the Associated Press.

Iraqi officials have said Saddam Hussein was being held at Camp Cropper, a US base near Baghdad.

The US military has never confirmed that the former president is being held there, but the detention centre is viewed as being the only site secure enough to hold him in Iraq.

'Imminent' trial

Iraqi's interim government has said Ali Hassan al-Majid, widely known as "Chemical Ali" , will be the first of Saddam Hussein's top aides to face trial, which could begin as early as next week.

Lawyers representing the members of the old regime have said their clients will not recognise the legitimacy of any courts established under US occupation.

Defence lawyers say they have had no chance to meet their clients, let alone prepare a defence, and they argue that to begin the trials now would be a miscarriage of justice.


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