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Saddam lawyers say boycott upheld until demands met

Written by: Staff
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AMMAN, July 23 (Reuters) Saddam Hussein's lawyers will boycott the trial of the toppled leader until their demands for a fair trial are met, the chief defence lawyer said today.

Khalil Dulaimi told Reuters in a interview in Amman a three-hour meeting with Saddam yesterday had only reinforced their decision to uphold a boycott begun on July 10 after a third defence lawyer was killed in Baghdad last month.

''We conferred with the president and we decided to continue the full suspension of our attendance of the trial sessions,'' Dulaimi said.

''We will return back to the court only after our demands are met. All our demands that represent the minimum for a fair trial have so been refused ... leaving us no option,'' the lawyer said.

Among the lawyers' demands are more security for them and their families and an investigation into the lawyers' killings, which they have blamed on Shi'ite militias.

Dulaimi said US offers of protection lacked enough safeguards and the court remained uncompromising on concessions that would allow the defence to perform effectively.

Saddam, his half-brother and ex-intelligence chief Barzan al-Tikriti and six former Baath party allies are on trial for crimes against humanity for the killing of 148 Shi'ites following the attempt on Saddam's life in 1982.

Saddam was taken to hospital and given food today after 16 days on a hunger strike and will not attend court tomorrow, the chief prosecutor in the former Iraqi leader's trial said.

Dulaimi expressed surprise at the sudden hospitalisation of Saddam, saying he appeared in good health yesterday when he saw him despite a weight loss of several kilograms.

He accused US military authorities of force feeding the toppled president to make him end his 16-day hunger strike but said it would not break Saddam's will or force his legal team to reconsider their boycott decision.

''It is clear they are resorting to severe means to break his will and this is a gross violation of his rights,'' he added.

Saddam had told the defence team on Saturday he was determined to maintain the hunger strike despite the health risk until the court agrees to his lawyers' demands, otherwise any appearance would confer legality to the court, Dulaimi said.

''The president did not want to attend the session so as not to give it legitimacy and give blessings to an unjust decision taken beforehand to convict him,'' Dulaimi said.

Saddam boycotted the last sessions in which the US-backed court heard final arguments to protest a decision to convict him through unlawful proceedings.

The boycott made more sense now with the trial losing any remaining credibility, Dulaimi said.

''This trial has no legality and is unconstitutional,'' Dulaimi added.

REUTERS MQA RAI2220

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