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Hussein trial set to resume Monday

Defense lawyers have threatened boycott over protection issue

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Saddam Hussein, here in a July court appearance, is accused in the killing and torture of citizens in Dujail in 1982.

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Taha Yassin Ramadan

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The trial of Saddam Hussein and his seven co-defendants is expected to resume Monday despite threats by defense lawyers to boycott, a U.S. official close to the court said.

Hussein defense attorney Khalil al-Dulaimi has insisted the team will not participate in the trial until a solution to protect its members is found.

In the last month, two defense attorneys have been killed.

Adil Muhammed al-Zubaidi, who represented former Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan, was fatally shot November 8 in an attack that left another lawyer wounded.

Sadoon Janabi, who represented Awad Hamad Bandar, the former chief judge of Hussein's Revolutionary Court, was kidnapped and fatally shot in the head October 20, a day after the trial began.

Janabi had refused any protection from the government, according to an Iraqi government official, and willingly appeared on videotape during the previous day's court proceedings.

The United States is working with Iraq's Interior Ministry to investigate the killings. The Iraqi government insists it is committed to protecting the judges and attorneys in the trial.

Hussein and seven other former regime members are on trial for charges they ordered the killing and torture of citizens in Dujail 23 years ago after a failed assassination attempt on the Iraqi leader.

The issue of security for the defense attorneys is expected to be addressed when the trial resumes, according to the U.S. official close to the Iraqi High Tribunal.

The court recognizes that the possible boycott is an issue of valid concern and a legal strategy, because it was threatened before the lawyers' killings took place, the official said.

The court is prepared to provide full security to everyone involved in the legal proceedings, the official said.

The court also has acted on attorneys' requests to have multinational forces and the Regime Crimes Liaison Office -- the arm of the U.S. State Department charged with assisting the court -- involved in security operations, the official added.

Security options for defense attorneys "are at least as good as those" being offered to other participants in the trial, the official said.

The court is urging defense attorneys to accept the court's offer of security.

The U.S. official offered other details on the resumption of the trial:

  • The court is expected to call witnesses, but it is not clear who they will be, how many there will be or if they will appear on camera;
  • Witnesses will decide whether or not to reveal their identities;
  • The exact start of the proceedings will not be known until Sunday, but the trial is expected to begin Monday morning local time;
  • The proceedings could run several days before a break is called;
  • A break will occur during the December 15 elections for a permanent parliament;
  • Monday will be the third time the Iraqi High Tribunal has been convened in an official capacity.
  • The official said that the former director of Iraq's secret police has died since his testimony in a hospital. He was terminally ill at the time. No defense attorneys showed up for the testimony despite court arrangements for them to appear in person or by telephone, the official said.

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