An Iraqi lawyer defending one of Saddam Hussein’s fellow accused was found shot dead outside a mosque hours after he was kidnapped from his office, officials said yesterday.
A member of Saddam’s legal team told The Times that the abduction and murder was an attempt to intimidate the former leader’s defence and destroy any chance of a fair trial.
Sadoun al-Janabi, defending Awad Hamed al-Bandar, who sat next to the toppled dictator in the dock this week, was dragged from his east Baghdad office by ten gunmen, witnesses said. His body was found near a Sunni mosque in the area, with two bullets in his head.
Muhammad Ibrahim, a local worker, said: “We tried to help him, but the gunmen told us to get away. They said they were from the Interior Ministry.” The ministry, which officials acknowledge is riddled with corruption, insurgent sympathisers and officers who have tortured and killed prisoners, said that it knew of no employees involved in such a raid.
Abdul Haq al-Ani, one of Saddam’s defence team, said: “This is meant to intimidate anyone who is taking part in the defence. It makes a mockery of a free and fair trial.” He emphasised how difficult it was to persuade lawyers to take up a brief in the capital, saying: “Every lawyer I speak to tells me, ‘My wife will divorce me if I go to Baghdad’.”
Mr al-Ani accused the Islamic Dawa party of an intimidation campaign. Dawa, the Shia party of Ibrahim Jaafari, the Prime Minister, was a key opponent of Saddam during his rule, resorting to bombings and other violence in the 1980s. “This is part of Dawa’s campaign,” Mr al-Ani said. “In 20 years people will look back and say what a blessing Iraq had under (Saddam ’s) Baath party compared with Dawa.”
Khalil al-Dulaimi, Saddam’s main lawyer, has frequently complained of death threats against him and his colleagues, including one attempt on his life. An official of the special tribunal, which is trying Saddam for crimes against humanity, said that the court provided the defence lawyers with two bodyguards each to escort them to the Green Zone, the fortified compound in Baghdad, where the trial is being held.
The rest of the time the lawyers had as many bodyguards as they could afford. He said that Mr alJanabi had several with him when he was kidnapped, but they were overwhelmed by the attackers. Mr Dulaimi said at the start of the proceedings that he held the US-led coalition responsible for the safety of the defence teams, The Times reports.