Iraqi lawyers defending Saddam Hussein before the country's Special Tribunal said Wednesday they had suspended further dealings with the court until their safety is guaranteed, citing the kidnapping and murder of a lawyer representing one of the former dictator's co-defendants the day after the trial opened last week.
A statement signed by Khalil al-Duleimi, who leads the Saddam hundreds-strong defense team, said poor security put the lawyers and their families in danger.
"Due to the extreme deterioration of the security situation in Iraq, and the repercussions facing the Iraqi defense team and their families, we are stopping all dealings with the court until the situation is reversed," said the statement that was sent to The Associated Press by facsimile.
Al-Duleimi arrived in Amman, the Jordanian capital, earlier Wednesday for meetings with other members of the defense team, including former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark. It was not known if al-Duleimi would meet with Saddam's family members living in Amman.
Al-Duleimi did not answer repeated telephone calls from The Associated Press.
The statement also claimed "U.S. troops had attacked al-Duleimi's office and documents and money were stolen." There was no other detail given to support the charge, which also called on "U.S. and Iraqi forces to stop assaulting the homes and offices of Saddam's defense team." There was no immediate comment from the U.S. military.
The move to suspend dealings with the Iraqi court was prompted by last week's assassination of Saadoun Sughaiyer al-Janabi, lawyer for Awad Hamed al-Bandar, the former head of Saddam's Revolutionary Court.
Al-Janabi was kidnapped by gunmen wearing police and military uniforms who walked into his Baghdad office last Thursday. Hours later, his body, bearing signs of torture, was found on a sidewalk near a Baghdad mosque, the AP says.
Saddam's Jordan-based legal support team also said Wednesday that it would seek United Nations protection for the Iraqi lawyers because they do not trust either the U.S. military or the Iraqi government to ensure their safety.
On photo: Khalil al-Duleimi, Saddam defense team leader.