Murders of Defense Counsel to Delay Saddam Trial Indefinitely?

by Last Night in Little Rock

Two defense lawyers in the Saddam Hussein trial have been murdered since the current recess to November 28th started, the first on October 20th and the second on November 8th. Iraq's Prime Minister called the murders an effort to end the trial as noted in the London Sunday Times. The defense is calling for a boycott of the trial because of security concerns, as noted here:

After the killing of the first lawyer, defence attorneys announced they would not co-operate with the court and would refuse to appear at the next session until they were satisfied with security.

Saddam and his co-defendants had 1,500 lawyers working on their behalf, in some capacity, with many in Jordan, and 1,100 of them have withdrawn from the case as noted here.

The court has said that the trial will go on without those who left, by appointing new lawyers as lead counsel. There are, after all, plenty to choose from. If the existing lawyers are willing to go on, you can be sure it will.

A writer at the Saddam trial blog decided that the defense's unwillingness to accept Iraqi or U.S. security after the first murder was a deadly gambit.

But the public and the press needs to recognize that the defense attorneys in part brought this tragic situation upon themselves when they elected to have their faces and identities broadcast during the first day of the trial, and when they subsequently refused to accept the Iraqi Government and U.S. military's offers of security. Now they are seeking to exploit the tragic -- but not unforeseeable -- murders of their colleagues in an attempt to derail the proceedings.

This is not the first trial in the world in which there is a high risk to the safety of the trial participants. The same types of concerns have been successfully dealt with in the trials of major drug lords in Central America and major terrorists in Europe and Latin America. In those trials, the defense counsel, prosecutors, judges and witnesses accept protection by the military or police. The difference here is that defense attorneys wanted their faces and identities to be broadcast, and then refused to accept protection.

After the murder of Sadoun Nasouaf al-Janavi, counsel to defendant Awad al-Bander, three weeks ago, the Iraqi Government and the U.S. military each independently offered to provide security for the defense counsel. The defense lawyers declined, saying that they did not trust the Iraqi Government or U.S. military. This was a ploy; a deadly gambit to justify their boycott of the trial and attempt to delay or derail the proceedings.

Suicide lawyers? Lawyers willing to be martyrs? Or were they just careless? Could they have stopped it even with protection in a country at war with insurgents everywhere?

In my own international trial, similar things have crossed my mind, but on a much smaller scale; slight, but still worrisome, would be another way to put it. Defense counsel have been told by outsiders that they would be held responsible for any conviction, not the prosecution or the defendants' own acts.

I'm not in a country at war, but there are those opposed to the trial, so the court complex is a quasi-military compound protected by the UN with machine gun nests at strategic points and armed soldiers for security inside. Outside, there is no protection, unless we ask for it. The judges have 24/7 armed guards who even walk them on the airplanes out during breaks. Nobody else has protection. It doesn't appear that anybody else needs it.

But, I've found my self daydreaming during translation breaks of an RPG fired into the courtroom from a nearby hillside to kill off the prosecutors, defense counsel, and three judges, particularly since the defendants are declining to appear so they are not in the courtroom, and there isn't a thing the UN troops could do to stop it.

And I think of that every time I walk in that courtroom. Outside the trial, I don't leave the hotel grounds. House arrest for up to four weeks at a time.

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  • Re: Murders of Defense Counsel to Delay Saddam Tri (none / 0) (#1)
    by Patrick on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:06:06 PM EST
    2 out of 1,500? And that's not some coincidence?

    "The difference here is that defense attorneys wanted their faces and identities to be broadcast, and then refused to accept protection." Holding a genocide trial in a country CURRENTLY being dismantled by genocide is insane. Did the writer forget to mention that? (glad you did mention it, Little). WHO killed those lawyers? If you answer doesn't include Blackwater, then you aren't thinking very hard. With 17 tons of Hussein's gov't documents in the US national archive, how can it not take ten years to try Hussein? How are the defending attorneys to read the evidence? Are they even allowed to visit the United States? It's a monkey trial, first and foremost. Add some bloody murders to move the case along toward its hasty conclusion, ignore the affirmative responsibility to NUREMBURG THE WHOLE CASE (for the victims), and you have yet another ripoff piece of slime from under George & Dick's outhouse. May the stars, the soldiers, (and the Cubanos) keep you safe, sir.

    I'm sure that it will be merely coincidental that Saddam's trial will suddenly get underway when some new quagmire erupts for The Bush League. Remember: it's not about justice at all, merely the appearance of justice. THAT is the name of this here game.