The lawyer of former Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz said today that he has received several death threats and asked for US and British protection.
Badee Izzat Aref, in Jordan on his way back to Iraq, said callers to his office in Baghdad have threatened to kill him if he continues to defend his clients.
“I am returning to Baghdad tomorrow and I urge President (George) Bush and British Prime Minister (Tony) Blair to protect me,” Aref said.
He said he had e-mailed the American and British ambassadors in Baghdad “holding them responsible for my killing and telling them my family will sue them if I die.”
Aref denied he fled Iraq because of the threats, saying he had been to Germany for surgery for a tumour in his throat.
Aref is taking the threats seriously following the recent assassinations of two Iraqi lawyers who were representing co-defendants in the trial of Saddam Hussein. Saadoun al-Janabi was abducted the day after trial opened October 19, and his body was found the next day with two bullet wounds to the head. Adel al-Zubeidi was killed in a November 8 ambush in western Baghdad that also injured another defence lawyer.
Aref said the investigators in Aziz’ case “do not want to listen to the voice of logic.”
“(They) know that Aziz was not involved in any crime,” he said.
Aziz has not been formally charged with any offense but is under investigation for his alleged role in Saddam Hussein’s regime. He has been jailed since he surrendered in April 2003 during the US-led war on Iraq.
The lawyer said Aziz’ daughters, Zainab and Shayma’a, visited their father in his detention location on Friday and found him “very tired with heaviness in his voice.”
“Aziz told his daughters that he suffered several slight strokes and his teeth were falling out,” Aref said. “He is always in pain. They only give him sedatives to calm the pain, but they don’t allow him proper dental treatment.”
Aref arrived in Amman from Paris, where he said he met with other lawyers, from France, Iraq and the Vatican, about the defence of Aziz and other detainees.
He named the other detainees as Jamal Mustafa, the husband of Saddam’s youngest daughter, Hala; his cousin Izzeldine al-Majid; and Issam Hueish, the former governor of Iraq’s Central Bank.
Hueish is accused of withdrawing more than one billion US dollars (£583 million for himself before the war.
“He has a receipt from Saddam, so that accusation is baseless,” Aref countered.