A lawyer for a co-defendant in Saddam Hussein's trial was shot to death and another lawyer was wounded Tuesday in Baghdad, a member of the defense team said. Adel al-Zubeidi, who was representing former Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan, was killed and another lawyer was wounded in an ambush in the Adil neighborhood, according to lawyer Khamis al-Obeidi.
Al-Zubeidi was the second defense attorney to be killed in less than a month.
On Oct. 20, Saadoun al-Janabi, was abducted from his office by 10 masked gunmen, a day after he attended the first session of the trial, acting as the lawyer for co-defendant Awad al-Bandar.
Al-Janabi's body, with two bullet shots to the head, was found hours later on a sidewalk near Fardous Mosque in the eastern neighborhood of Ur in Baghdad, near the site of his office.
A police general said the attack occurred when three gunmen in a speeding car pulled alongside the lawyers' vehicle and opened fire. The general insisted on anonymity because the sensitive case was in the early stage of investigation.
Al-Zubeidi also represented Abdullah Kazim Ruwayyid, a former Baath party official.
Saddam and seven others have been charged with the 1982 killings of Shiite villagers in Dujail, a town north of Baghdad, following an assassination attempt. The trial opened Oct. 19 and was suspended until Nov. 28 to allow the defense time to prepare its case.
The assassination of a second lawyer associated with the trial is likely to raise new questions about whether this country can conduct such a sensitive prosecution in the midst of insurgency and domestic turmoil.
Following al-Janabi's death, members of the defense team said they had suspended further dealings with the special court until their safety is guaranteed. Al-Obeidi said that the entire defense team had rejected an offer of guards from the Interior Ministry, pointing to frequent Sunni Arab accusations that ministry forces or Shiite militias linked to the government have killed members of the minority that was dominant under Saddam.
He said then that they were talking with U.S. officials about getting protection from American troops. But a later defense team statement said 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., the AP says.
Saddam's defense team, which includes some 1,500 lawyers who act as advisers, is led by Khalid al-Dulaimi and Abdel Haq Alani, an Iraqi-born lawyer based in Britain. Alani is the top legal consultant to Saddam's daughter, Raghad, and believed to be backbone of defense team.