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Iraq Transition

Top UK lawyer may defend Saddam


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    If you were a lawyer and were asked, would you defend Saddam Hussein?
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    Saddam Hussein

    LONDON, England (CNN) -- A leading British lawyer has been asked to defend Saddam Hussein at the former Iraqi dictator's trial for mass murder, his office told CNN.

    Anthony Scrivener, who once helped free four men wrongfully imprisoned as IRA bombers, had not yet decided whether to take the job, Martin Hart, senior clerk in Scrivener's office, said.

    "Anthony Scrivener QC has been approached to lead a legal team to challenge the lawfulness of the tribunal trying Saddam Hussein," his office said in statement.

    "Nothing further has happened at this stage and in accordance with Bar Council Rules Anthony Scrivener QC will not give any press conferences or make statements to the media."

    Scrivener, 70, was part of the legal team that freed the "Guildford Four," jailed for two 1975 pub bombings.

    Saddam and seven other defendants face their first trial starting October 19 for the massacre of 143 Shiites in the village of Dujail, north of Baghdad, in 1982. (Saddam trial on track)

    Prosecutors have not announced the exact charges, which are expected to be read out in the first sessions. Saddam could face the death penalty if convicted.

    Abdul Haq Al Ani, an Iraqi-born lawyer involved in Saddam's defense, told the BBC on Thursday that the former Iraqi leader was feeling "upbeat" about the trial.

    Hart, senior clerk to his chambers, told the UK's Press Association: "Mr Scrivener has been approached by the people involved in the case but it is wrong to say that he has been instructed on the case.

    "I don't know how many other people have been approached or if Mr Scrivener will be instructed to undertake the case.

    "He's not in a position to make a decision at this stage. It can only come to fruition through the fullness of time, if (Saddam's) people come back to him and the circumstances are right and nothing in the case fails to meet other obligations a barrister must make."

    He said Scrivener would not be able to make any comment about the case.

    "He cannot comment about any case, whether it be Saddam Hussein or Mrs Mop, even if he has not yet taken it. There is a possibility he might take this case, so it would be inappropriate to comment."

    While defending Saddam would be by far the most high-profile trial of Mr Scrivener's career, he is known for taking part in high-publicity cases.

    As well as representing the Guildford Four, he is due to work with the Northern Ireland solicitor Desmond Doherty who has been heavily involved in the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, PA reports.

    He also represented Winston Silcott, was wrongly convicted of killing PC Keith Blakelock in London's Broadwater Farm riots in 1985.

    In 2000, at the inquiry into the Paddington rail crash, he represented the trade union Aslef and the families of the two drivers involved.

    He has defended Sion Jenkins, who is due to face a third trial accused of the murder of his foster daughter Billie-Jo, which is due to start this month. And he defended Norfolk farmer Tony Martin during his trial for shooting a burglar.

    The 70-year-old Scrivener, who lists his hobbies in Who's Who as chess, cricket, car racing and taking the dog for a walk, has already practiced law in several countries, including Jamaica, Malaysia, Singapore and Australia.

    According to the BBC program Newsnight, the team which aims to save Saddam from execution has been put together by Iraqi-born barrister Abdul Haq Al Ani at the request of Saddam's daughter Raghad Saddam Hussein.

    Al Ani told the show the Iraqi Special Tribunal was illegal. "It was drafted by an occupying power. It has no right under international law to change the legal system of the occupied land," he said.

    He added that Saddam was "upbeat" and in "high spirits," looking forward to the trial.

    Al Ani told the BBC the former president will challenge the legality of the special tribunal.

    "He had full immunity under the prevailing Iraqi constitution and you cannot have a retroactive legislation that removes that immunity," Al Ani said.

    Al Ani is organizing the defense in cooperation with Khalil Dulaimi, who is based in Baghdad and is the only lawyer who has so far been allowed to meet Saddam, PA added.

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