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U.S. controls court, Saddam lawyer says

AP


Jun. 6, 2006. 03:40 PM


BEIRUT Ś The court where former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein is being tried is not purely Iraqi but controlled by Americans who arrange meetings between the defence and defendants and give orders to the judge, a defence lawyer charged Tuesday.

Bushra al-Khalil, a Lebanese lawyer who was thrown out of the courtroom by Chief Judge Raouf Abdel-Rahman last month, said she believes "a team of American jurists take part in the trial and attend all sessions from a room where they can see but not be seen."

During a news conference in Beirut, she charged that the team ``directs the court's judge and gives orders," by passing notes to security guards for delivery to the judge.

U.S. officials in Baghdad were not immediately available for comment but have denied that they are improperly influencing the proceedings.

Court spokesman Raed Juhi said al-Khalil's statements are baseless because "the court is 100 per cent Iraqi. The court's decisions are Iraqi and no one can influence those decisions."

The judge also has stressed to defendants that the court is Iraqi only.

Al-Khalil has said in the past that she believes the chief judge threw her out of the court May 22 because she is a Shiite Muslim defending the former Iraqi leader, who is accused of killing Shiites and Kurds during his 23-year rule.

For al-Khalil, Saddam is a national hero resisting the U.S. invasion of his country.

Al-Khalil said Tuesday that Saddam's lawyers usually are accompanied by American guards from the time they land at Baghdad's airport until they leave the country. She said the head of the security team had a number of assistants, all Americans of Arab origin but not Iraqis.

Last week, however, the lawyers complained that U.S. authorities had withdrawn the security, leaving them endangered.



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