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Lawyer: Ex-U.S. attorney general to join Saddam defense

Ramsey Clark, shown on a January 2000 visit to Baghdad, has been an outspoken critic of the war.


Is former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark right to join Saddam Hussein's defense team?
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Saddam Hussein

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Saddam Hussein's attorneys will ask an Iraqi tribunal Monday for permission to add former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark to the courtroom defense team.

Khames Hameed al-Ubaidi said Clark was in Baghdad and will meet with the defense team on Sunday night or Monday morning, when the trial is scheduled to resume.

If Clark is not allowed to participate in the courtroom, he will act as a legal adviser, al-Ubaidi said.

A U.S. official close to the Iraqi High Tribunal said there have been no motions made by Hussein's attorney to have an international lawyer work on the defense team. But the official said that if the proper motion for that was filed it would probably be accepted.

Clark was attorney general under President Lyndon Johnson and has been a civil rights attorney and activist in recent years. Clark, who opposed the Iraq war, met with Hussein in February 2003, just before the U.S.-led invasion began.

"Our plan is to go to court in Baghdad on Monday morning representing the defense counsel as defense support. A fair trial in this case is absolutely imperative for historical truth to justice obviously," Clark told the Reuters news agency before leaving Amman, Jordan. (Watch Ramsey Clark explain his goals -- 2:23)

Hussein and seven other former regime members are charged with ordering the killing and torture of more than 140 civilians in the town of Dujail, 23 years ago, after a failed assassination attempt.

If convicted, Hussein and his co-defendants would face the death penalty.

When the trial resumes Monday, attorneys will ask for a three-month delay of the trial because the defense has not received some documents, al-Ubaidi said. They include death certificates for the 148 people prosecutors say were killed in Dujail. (Watch Iraqis call for Saddam's execution Saturday -- 2:10)

In addition, al-Ubaidi wants a better quality computer disk with witness statements, and he said he needs the names of witnesses.

Lawyers have said they haven't been able to devote all of their energies to the case because of security fears following recent attacks on attorneys connected with the case.

The trial has been delayed since its opening day, October 19, when Hussein's lead attorney, Khalil Dulaimi, said most of the defense lawyers were not sufficiently experienced in international law and in cases of this magnitude.

He also said the defense team wasn't informed about the start of the trial until three weeks before it began -- which he said was in violation of the tribunal regulations.

Dulaimi has insisted the defense team will not participate in the trial until a solution to protect its members is found.

Defense attorneys killed

Two attorneys working on the trial have been killed in the past two months.

Adil Muhammed al-Zubaidi, who was representing former Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan, was shot to death on November 8 in an attack that left another lawyer wounded.

On October 20, a day after the trial began, Sadoon Janabi was kidnapped and fatally shot in the head. Janabi had been representing Awad Hamad Bandar, the former chief judge of Hussein's Revolutionary Court.

Janabi had refused any protection from the government, according to an Iraqi government official, and willingly appeared on videotape during the previous day's court proceedings.

The United States is working with Iraq's Interior Ministry to investigate the killings. The Iraqi government insists it is committed to protecting the judges and attorneys in the trial.

On Wednesday, a U.S. official close to the Iraqi High Tribunal said the issue of security for the defense attorneys is expected to be addressed when the trial resumes.

The court is prepared to provide full security to everyone involved in the legal proceedings, the official said.

The court also has acted on attorneys' requests to have multinational forces and the Regime Crimes Liaison Office -- the arm of the U.S. State Department charged with assisting the court -- involved in security operations, the official added.

Security options for defense attorneys "are at least as good as those" being offered to other participants in the trial, the official said. (Full story)

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