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Lawyer fears Saddam assassination plot


(Tuesday, May 3, 2005)

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“We have received information that certain political parties in Iraq supported by Iran are plotting to assassinate President Saddam Hussein,” al-Khasawneh said.

Saddam Hussein’s chief lawyer today accused unnamed Iranian-backed Iraqi politicians of plotting to assassinate the ousted dictator in his prison cell and held the US responsible for his safety. Ziad al-Khasawneh said he based his information on a message allegedly sent by a former Iraqi government official he identified as Hazem al-Obeidi addressed to Saddam’s Jordan-based legal team and posted on a pro-Saddam website.

“We have received information that certain political parties in Iraq supported by Iran are plotting to assassinate President Saddam Hussein,” al-Khasawneh said. It was not immediately possible to verify the warning’s authenticity or identity of its sender. But Iraqi national security adviser Mouwafak al-Rubaie scoffed at the accusations, describing them as a ploy to have Saddam moved to another country to face an international court. “They want to make it as an excuse to transfer Saddam Hussein outside the country for him to face an international tribunal instead of an Iraqi one,” he said.

Saddam, who was captured in December 2003, is facing charges including killing rival politicians during his 30-year rule, gassing Kurds, invading Kuwait in 1990 and suppressing Kurdish and Shiite uprisings in 1991. He was arraigned in an Iraqi court in July without defence counsel and will be tried before a special Iraqi tribunal, which has not released any dates for the trials to start.

Rana Sidani, a press officer for the Iraq Office of the International Committee of the Red Cross, declined to comment on al-Khasawneh’s claims, adding only that her organisation knew nothing about the issue. The ICRC regularly visits Saddam at his detention centre near Baghdad’s international airport. Al-Khasawneh said the internet warning suggested Iraqi politicians had dispatched a man to Iran to train to assassinate Saddam. “The scenario is to have the man become the personal guard of the president in jail, where he would assassinate him,” he said. The lawyer said the US must safeguard Saddam and transfer him “to a safe place under the supervision of the United Nations.”

Five days ago, Saddam met with Iraqi defence lawyer Khalil al-Duleimi, who later reported that the deposed leader was in good health and high spirits. The meeting, Saddam’s second in four months, lasted six hours.

Saddam’s legal team includes 1,500 volunteers and at least 22 lead lawyers who come from several countries, including the US, France, Jordan and Libya. Most of the volunteer lawyers are from Arab countries.

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