LONDON (Reuters) -Saddam Hussein”s new defense lawyers plan to prove he has been denied his legal rights when they defend him at a "show trial" next month, according to the lawyer assembling the team.
Iraqi officials have said the former Iraqi president will go on trial on October 19, but London-based barrister Abdel Haq Alani told Reuters on Sunday the U.S.-backed court had not even told him the trial date or the charges against him.
"We can prove in court that there has never been a due process of law. This is what is going to embarrass the Americans," said Alani, who was hired by Saddam”s eldest daughter Raghd.
"We have not had any charge laid formally against the accused nor have we had any evidence as to what the elements are of the charge. There has not been a single document served to the defense on the charges, not any shred of evidence, nothing."
Alani said the defense strategy will focus on undermining the legitimacy of the court, by showing that the judges are not impartial and that Saddam has already been subject to legal bias, including failure to allow his lawyers to examine the supporting evidence of the prosecution.
"The man has been denied legal access, he has not been given enough legal advice or told of his rights, and he can”t see the lawyer of his choice. That is not how it works," said Alani.
Independent legal scholars and human rights organizations have called for an international trial for Saddam, saying that Iraqi leaders have already pronounced him guilty and he may not receive a fair trial.
They say the tribunal is funded by the United States, its members were appointed by the now defunct U.S. occupation authority, and U.S. lawyers and officials still work with the prosecution and help gather evidence.
"If the trial is held on October 19, the Americans will have a difficult time convincing anyone that this is a fair and just trial when no proper procedure has been followed. It would be a show trial," Alani said.
Saddam, who has been held by U.S. forces since they captured him in 2003, sacked his defense team last month to bring in a more professional group.
Alani, who has been meeting the new lawyers in London, said the names of the new team will be presented to Saddam for approval next week.
Saddam, a Sunni Arab, was Iraq”s strongman from 1968, when the Baath Party took power in a coup, to 2003 when the U.S.-led invasion removed him from power.
Thousands of Iraqis were killed under his rule, including Kurdish civilians attacked with gas in the Kurdish village of Halabja in 1988. Some Iraqi officials said at the time that the attack was aimed at Iranian troops who had occupied the area and militant Islamist Kurds they backed.
Iraqi officials say the only charge leveled against Saddam so far is the killing of 143 men in the mostly Shi”ite village of Dujail after a failed assassination attempt against Saddam in the village in 1982.
Officials and village elders in Dujail, interviewed by Reuters, said Iraqi forces led by Saddam”s half-brother Sabawi stormed the village after the assassination attempt and arrested scores of suspects, many of whom later disappeared after being transferred to a jail near the Saudi border.
Investigating judges have also probed the crushing by government forces of Shi”ite and Kurdish revolts.
Alani said he had seen no evidence that Saddam had ordered any killings.
"The Iraqi government wants to speed up the trial but the United States knows they are not ready." Alani said. "The Americans may want to show that this is a fair and just trial, which could work to our advantage."