Former US Attorney Slams Saddam Tribunal

May 11th, 2006 - by admin

Paul Courson / CNN – 2006-05-11 08:32:00

WASHINGTON (May 9, 2006) — He’s questioned the legality of the court. He’s called the trial “pure chaos.” He’s called a judge’s attempt to protect attorneys and witnesses “absurd.”

Now, a member of Saddam Hussein’s defense team is saying they need an extra month to prepare the defense of the former Iraqi dictator because the court has been uncooperative.

Ramsey Clark, who served as US attorney general under President Lyndon B. Johnson, said Tuesday that Hussein’s legal team won’t be prepared to defend its client against war crime charges May 15, the date the team is scheduled to present its case to the Iraqi Special Tribunal in Baghdad.

Hussein’s defense lawyers “haven’t had the central documents to prepare the defense, which we have asked for time and time again. We don’t even have the transcript of the testimony that has been given,” Clark said.

At a Washington news conference, Clark leveled accusations at the White House, which he said is using the tribunal “to vindicate its invasion, to validate occupation and to make the world believe that the Iraqi people demanded that Saddam Hussein and other leaders in his government be executed.”

He added in a written statement, “The trial is clearly the planned continuation of the essentially unilateral war of aggression waged by the Bush administration against Iraq.”

Clark also echoed remarks he made earlier this year about the legal validity of the court, which he questions because of its alleged inability to protect participants and because of what he feels is the court’s bias against Hussein.

The former Iraqi leader and seven other members of his regime are charged with torturing and killing 148 civilians in the Shiite town of Dujail 23 years ago. The killings are believed to be retaliation for a failed assassination attempt on Hussein, a Sunni.

Clark, who said Tuesday that the tribunal should be abolished and that Hussein’s trial should be moved to a neutral court, made similar comments earlier this year. Two defense attorneys had already been killed when he joined the defense team in late November.

Sadoon Janabi, an attorney for Awad Hamad Bandar, the former chief judge of Hussein’s Revolutionary Court, was kidnapped and shot in the head October 20, the day after the trial began. Adil Muhammed al-Zubaidi, who was representing former Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan, was shot to death November 8.

Though Clark did not request a specific change of venue for the Hussein trial, he suggested that Hussein may have a better shot at a fair trial in the United States.

The US court system holds promise, Clark said, because a federal jury recently declined to issue a death sentence to Zacarias Moussaoui, the al Qaeda operative who pleaded guilty to having a connection to the September 11, 2001, attacks.

Clark said the Moussaoui jury acted fairly in deciding that there wasn’t enough evidence to justify the death penalty, and he said an American jury would be more objective than the Iraqi Special Tribunal.

Clark has been a civil rights attorney and controversial activist in recent years. He opposed the war in Iraq and met with Hussein in February 2003, just before the US-led invasion of the country.

In January, Clark suggested during an interview with The Associated Press that a lack of proper medical care caused the death of former Yugoslavian President Slobodan Milosevic, whom Clark said “became president during a time of great crisis.” (Full story)

Milosevic died during a U.N. War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, where he faced 66 counts of war crimes, including genocide.

Saying it was important to remember Milosevic’s “struggle to preserve Yugoslavia,” Clark told the AP that during the tribunal, “everyone knew his health was failing, but he was not granted proper medical care. Amid the struggle, his heart gave up.”

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