Saddam Hussein's lawyer say Americans are in full control of court

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

Bushra al-Khalil, a female Lebanese lawyer who was thrown out of the courtroom by chief judge Raouf Abdel-Rahman last month, said she believed "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 giving notes to security guards to give to the judge.

A U.S. official close to the court said Americans advise the court but do not control its decisions.

" As has been stated publicly several times previously, the U.S. assists with security for the entire IHT (Iraqi High Tribunal) process, to include protection for defense counsel and witnesses," the U.S. official said by e-mail from Baghdad, on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak with the press.

"Some IHT officials and staff, and U.S. personnel providing support to the process, work in areas of the courthouse building with no public access, including the area where Ms. al-Khalil and other defense counsel spend much of their time while in the courthouse," the official said.

Court spokesman Raed Juhi said al-Khalil's statements are baseless because "the court is 100 percent 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, reports AP.

O.Ch.