Lawyers for Saddam Hussein and his aides severed all contact with the court trying the former Iraqi president on Wednesday after the second murder of a member of the defense team since the trial began last month. Attorneys representing Saddam and seven co-accused on charges of crimes against humanity considered a second day of hearings set for November 28 to be "canceled and illegitimate", lead counsel Khalil al-Dulaimi told Reuters.
Interviewed in the Sunni Arab rebel stronghold of Ramadi, west of Baghdad, he said he felt personally threatened and renewed demands for the United Nations to intervene to stop the trial following Tuesday's killing of lawyer Adil al-Zubeidi.
"We're facing daily threats and these threats prevent us from going to our offices and the court and from interviewing the witnesses," Dulaimi said.
"We call on the international community, the U.N. Security Council, the United States and all those involved to work on scrapping the criminal court as illegitimate, and also to pressure it to release President Saddam Hussein and his legitimate leadership team.
"The defense committee has decided to consider the November 28 date canceled and illegitimate."
Coming less than three weeks after the killing of another lawyer for one of Saddam's co-accused, Tuesday's attack renewed international concerns about whether the trial can be held in Iraq given the sectarian violence still plaguing the country.
It was unclear what effect a defense boycott would have on the tribunal, which has the power to appoint counsel. However it would clearly dent efforts by the Iraqi and U.S. governments to show that the trial is entirely fair, according to Reuters.
The defense team has said it is simply not safe to take part in the trial.