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Saddam's attorney: 'When is this man going to be charged?'

Saddam attorney Giovanni di Stefano
• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
• Interactive: Sectarian divide
Saddam Hussein

(CNN) -- A British tabloid on Friday published photos of Saddam Hussein in captivity, including a cover photo of the ousted Iraqi leader in his underwear.

The U.S. military denied giving the photos to the paper, and officials said they were investigating.

CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer spoke Friday with Saddam's attorney, Giovanni di Stefano, about his client's situation.

BLITZER: What do you make of this publication in [The Sun]? First of all, have you confirmed -- do you believe these photos to be authentic?

DI STEFANO: Well, whether they're authentic or not is actually quite irrelevant. The important issue -- and it's regrettable that something like this has happened -- the important issue is the statement made that we heard from the Kuwaiti foreign minister [Mohammed Al-Sabah], that he is expecting a fair trial.

The other important issue, of course, is the whole question of when is this man going to be charged? This is what the whole world wants.

Never mind about photographs of Saddam Hussein in his underpants. That will be dealt with by the Pentagon and their aggressive inquiry. But I would suggest that Mr. [Donald] Rumsfeld and President Bush's aggressive inquiry is into why no charges have still been laid against the president, Saddam Hussein, after 19 months in custody and only two legal visits within that 19 months.

When is that going to happen? It doesn't matter whether he's. ...

BLITZER: I was going to say, you've had access to Saddam Hussein, you and your co-counsels, your other defense attorneys. When you meet with him, what does he look like? What does he sound like? What do they -- what does he say to you?

DI STEFANO: Well, that's been well-documented already. I mean he's not a happy man. No one likes to be in custody. To a certain extent, he still considers himself to be the president of the country.

The whole question, Wolf, is this: nineteen months and no charges. If there was no evidence that this man had committed the crimes that the foreign minister had said from Kuwait -- and that may or may not be so -- why not bring charges?

The whole world is now beginning to have its doubts, not only on the legality on the war, but if the war was so legal, why not challenge this man? Where are the charges?

Nineteen months, not a single charge. Not one count. Why not charge him with murder? Rape? Genocide? War crimes?

Let's have something, because until such time. ...

BLITZER: I suspect, Mr. di Stefano, that those charges are going to be made, because certainly almost all of the Iraqi leaders of the new government -- and I've interviewed many of them -- they say those charges will be forthcoming as soon as they prepare and have their war crimes tribunal in place.

He did make that appearance in the court, and we're showing our viewers some pictures when he showed up in the court before the presiding judge. What you want are the specific charges.

DI STEFANO: Well, Wolf, the problem -- there's another problem that's arisen there. That court is not the special tribunal.

We have subsequently found out that that court is the central criminal court of Baghdad, which is an institution that was formulated by the [U.S.-led] Coalition Provisional Authority, a body that no longer exists. What they didn't do is have transitionary powers to transfer him and other potential indictees to the special tribunal. That is the problem.

After millions of dollars that have been spent, 19 months, there is not a single American citizen that would stand for anyone in America or in the free world to be 19 months in custody without a charge. That is simply not correct.

BLITZER: Well, there are a lot of detainees being held at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, and detainees being held elsewhere that haven't formally been charged with anything either.

DI STEFANO: That's not -- the issue here is the question of Saddam Hussein. There is a special tribunal. There are special statutes ... drafted by Salem Chalabi.

One of them is Article 20, which [provides for] a fair trial. And it's very, very important to note that the foreign minister of Kuwait, a country that Saddam Hussein invaded -- whether he did it rightly or wrongly is yet to be seen -- he has asked for a fair trial. We at the defense ask for a trial.

Never mind -- we would make do with a trial. In fact, we would make do with a charge. We've got nothing. We have a man for nothing.

BLITZER: Well, let me ask you -- Mr. di Stefano, let me ask you this question about the charges that have been leveled against Saddam Hussein. One specific charge, he ordered the gassing of thousands of Kurds -- poison gas in the late 1980s in the northern part of Iraq, in effect committing genocide against Kurds.

Is that something that you accept?

DI STEFANO: I will accept any charge, even one of stealing a bicycle at this stage, because at the moment we actually only have speculation. We do not have an indictment.

This man must be properly charged, must be properly indicted, and everything has to be done properly in accordance with international law. If we want to preach democracy and the gospel according to democracy in other countries, we've got to start with doing things properly.

Now, whether he's guilty or not, that -- you know, that's for a tribunal. But at the moment, Wolf, the situation is that you have a man who has not been charged and is in custody for 19 months and has received two legal visits.

Even those in Guantanamo Bay have had visits. There is some basis for holding them. The Supreme Court has ruled on that. There have been hearings about those. In this case, we have nothing.

BLITZER: You say two legal visits. He's been visited by his attorneys on two occasions, but he's had other visits from [the International Committee of the] Red Cross representatives, is that right?

DI STEFANO: Do you call that a visit? A Red Cross -- we're talking about a man that is 19 months in custody, hasn't seen his grandchildren, hasn't seen his wife, hasn't seen -- never mind about what he may or may not have done. Everyone has basic rights.

Never mind whether he did those for the people or not. You have a man in custody; the American government has the responsibility for him. And if they want to be liked in the world, if they want to be understood, they had better get things and do things properly.

And any charge will do at this stage. Let's just get on with it.

BLITZER: You realize that a lot of our viewers in the United States and around the world hearing you now saying Saddam Hussein deserves these legal rights will argue, you know, this is a brutal dictator who, when he was in power for those decades, he didn't care about anyone's rights. If someone looked at him in the wrong way, he ordered them dead.

Why should he get some rights that he never granted anyone else?

DI STEFANO: Let us not then have a masquerade of hypocrisy. Let us be a country that simply shoots him. Even that solution may be acceptable to some.

But we cannot preach the gospel of democracy. We can't say that we are going on a mission of peace and bring soldiers there and say we want to bring freedom and then not respect that freedom, because that is what we are bringing to Iraq.

... We are happy at this stage with a charge. A single charge would be sufficient, and then the reputation of America and those holding him would be much higher.

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