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Saddam trial: Another lawyer killed

Yet, another lawyer was wounded in the ambush on Tuesday.

india Updated: Jun 02, 2007 17:36 IST

A lawyer for a co-defendant in Saddam Hussein's trial was shot to death and another lawyer was wounded on Tuesday in Baghdad, a member of the defence 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 neighbourhood, according to lawyer Khamis al-Obeidi.

Al-Zubeidi was the second defence attorney to be killed in less than a month.

On October 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 neighbourhood of Ur in Baghdad, near the site of his office. Al-Zubeidi also represented Abdullah Kazim Ruwayyid, a former Baath party official.

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-Obeidi condemned the attack and blamed the government for failing to protect the defence team.

"The government bears the responsibility because it is supposed to protect the citizens," he said. "If there were a serious investigation into the previous murder of al-Janabi and the perpetrators had been arrested, we would not see today's crime. We demand a thorough investigation and severe punishment for the criminals behind today's terrorist crime against lawyers who were only doing their job."

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 October 19 and was suspended until November 28 to allow the defence 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 defence 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 US officials about getting protection from American troops. But a later defence team statement said that it would seek United Nations protection for the Iraqi lawyers because they do not trust either the US military or the Iraqi government to ensure their safety.

Saddam's defence 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 defence team.

First Published: Nov 08, 2005 19:55 IST