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Iraq Transition

Lawyer condemns jailing of Saddam

Saddam in court last year but he has yet to be formally charged.
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The U.S. vows a probe into the publication of photos of Saddam Hussein.
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Should the photos of Saddam Hussein in captivity have been published?
Saddam Hussein

LONDON, England (CNN) -- A lawyer for Saddam Hussein says it is "regrettable" that a British tabloid published pictures of the former dictator living in captivity, but he is more concerned that U.S. and Iraqi authorities are flouting the former Iraqi president's legal rights by keeping him jailed without issuing an indictment.

Giovanni di Stefano -- interviewed Friday afternoon by CNN's Wolf Blitzer -- expressed outrage that the former dictator has not been charged since he was taken into custody in December 2003.

Asked whether he thought the photos in the Sun were authentic, di Stefano said the authenticity issue is "irrelevant" even though "it's regrettable that something like this would happen."

"When is this man going to be charged? This is what the whole world wants. Never mind about photographs of Saddam Hussein in his underpants. That will be dealt with by the Pentagon and their aggressive inquiry," an apparent sarcastic reference into the U.S. military's expressed intention to get to the bottom of how the photos got in the newspaper.

For months, officials have said, authorities have been gathering evidence and preparing their case against Saddam and his allies.

"He's not a happy man," di Stefano said. "No one likes to be in custody. To a certain extent, he still considers himself to be the president of the country."

But he said if Saddam is guilty of something or anything, "why not bring charges?"

He believes the lack of indictments is spurring doubts across the globe.

"Why not charge him with murder, rape, genocide, war crimes? Let's have something," said di Stefano.

For now, he said, "we actually only have speculation."

Saddam made an appearance last year before a court that was formed by the Coalition Provisional Authority, a U.S.-backed body that no longer exists. He has not appeared before the Iraqi tribunal responsible for handling war crimes.

"What they didn't do is have transitionary powers to transfer him and other potential indictees ... to the special tribunal. That is the problem," di Stefano.

In last summer's court hearing, a judge read seven preliminary charges against the deposed dictator. They were not the formal charges, but the reading of them was the first step in the case's legal investigative process.

The seven charges were:

  • The killings of religious figures in 1974;
  • The gassing of Kurds in Halabja in 1988;
  • The killings of the Kurdish Barzani clan in 1983;
  • The killings of members of political parties over the past 30 years;
  • A campaign between 1986 and 1988 to displace Kurds;
  • The suppression of uprisings by Kurds and Shiites in 1991;
  • The 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
  • Di Stefano said Saddam had also received only two legal visits and downplayed the visits of the International Committee of the Red Cross, which checks on prisoners' living conditions.

    The attorney said that if the coalition plans to preach and spread "the gospel of democracy," it must adhere to the proper legal procedures.

    In another interview with CNN, di Stefano indicated that the photos -- one showing him wearing underpants and washing his socks -- were benign and humdrum and would not have any negative impact on the insurgency.

    However, he said, such images will not be well-received by citizens of Iraq because people will feel that the "president has been degraded."

    "It would be like having the pope wearing jogging gear," said di Stefano.

    He said it would be ironic for the person who took the photograph to be punished before Saddam himself -- who has not been charged.

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