Death sentence for Saddam 'will spark more Iraqi violence'

Saddam Hussein’s chief lawyer warned today of worsening violence in Iraq and chaos through the Middle East if the ex-president was sentenced to death in his trial on charges of crimes against humanity because of an anti-Shiite crackdown in the 1980s.

Saddam Hussein’s chief lawyer warned today of worsening violence in Iraq and chaos through the Middle East if the ex-president was sentenced to death in his trial on charges of crimes against humanity because of an anti-Shiite crackdown in the 1980s.

Khalil al-Dulaimi also said he would attend Saddam’s resumed hearings tomorrow on separate charges of genocide against the Kurds, breaking a month-long boycott of the trial.

Al-Dulaimi told The Associated Press in Jordan that he warned of a civil war in a letter sent recently to US President George Bush.

“I warned him against the death penalty and against any other decision that would inflame a civil war in Iraq and send fire throughout the region,” al-Dulaimi he said in a telephone interview from Baghdad. He did not say when exactly and how he sent the letter to Bush.

“Any foolish American decision will further complicate things and will pose a serious threat to US interests in the region,” he said.

Al-Dulaimi also claimed that the offices of Saddam’s defence team in the US-controlled Green Zone of Baghdad were ransacked over a week ago, and that more than 1,400 pages of the trial documents were damaged.

He said trial documents were provided by the Iraqi court trying Saddam and his co-defendants in the Anfal trial regarding the genocide charges on Kurds, and that the defence team had been reviewing them.

“Some 1,450 pages were blackened and we believe that the prosecution was behind this,” he said.

He said he would lodge a complaint against the prosecution and demand an investigation into the incident.

He could not explain how the documents were blackened or damaged. Badee Izzat Aref, a lawyer for one of Saddam’s co-defendants, confirmed the ransacking incident. He said that there was no sign of a break-in at the lawyers’ offices.

Saddam faces death by hanging in his trial in connection with the killing of some 148 Shiite villagers in Dujail following a 1982 assassination attempt against him. A verdict in the trial, which began a year ago and also involves seven co-defendants, is expected on November 5.

Saddam can appeal the verdict to a higher Iraqi court.

The ex-president is also the chief defendant in another trial, facing genocide charges in connection with a government crackdown in the 1980s against Iraqi Kurds. The prosecution alleges about 180,000 people died in that campaign.

Al-Dulaimi said he will attend Saddam’s resumed trial on Monday in Baghdad to present the chief judge with defence requests, including allowing non-Iraqi lawyers to attend the hearings without prior permission from the court.

“Depending on the response from the chief judge, the defence team will decide whether to attend the hearings or continue its boycott.”

The defence team boycotted the hearings on the Kurdish genocide charges on September 24 following the abrupt dismissal of the chief judge, who was accused of being too soft on Saddam.

The lawyers said later they also wanted to protest the court’s refusal to give them more time to review some 10,000 documents in the Anfal trial.

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