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Saddam demands trial in Sweden

- Aljazeera

(Saturday, June 18, 2005)

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"Saddam’s advisers want to have the trial in Sweden with the hope it will provide a neutral venue for the hearing."

The legal team representing Saddam Hussein appealed to justice ministers in Sweden to consider staging the toppled Iraqi leader’s trial. London-based legal adviser Giovanni Di Stefano says, “I don’t believe in a fair trial under the conditions of war apparent in Iraq. How can you calmly talk with a client or hear witnesses when there are bombs exploding?”

Attorney Di Stefano also said that "Sweden is a neutral country, but we may not succeed. They were against the American invasion of Iraq. Poland was drawn by the promises of the United States and sent its forces to Iraq in good faith.” Saddam’s advisers want to have the trial in Sweden with the hope it will provide a neutral venue for the hearing.

Di Stefano held talks with Swedish authorities and said he hopes they will agree to moving the trial outside Iraq. According to Di Stefano, the legal aides are seeking moving the trial to Europe also to ensure the ousted Iraqi President does not face the death penalty.

It remains unclear if Sweden will agree to the idea, or if it would be considered by the Iraqi Special Tribunal, charged with handling the trials of Saddam and members of the former Iraqi regime. Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson has said his country could be willing to allow Hussein to serve a prison sentence there.

"We take the view that for the benefit and security of not only our client, but also for the stability of Iraq, it would be in the best interests for our client to be transferred forthwith to detention in Sweden pending any trial", Mr. Di Stefano said in a letter to the Swedish Ministry of Justice. "We believe that any trial should take place in Sweden, establishing a seat of the Iraqi Special Tribunal in Sweden in a similar manner that occurred in the Hague by the British and Libyan government," “"n the event of any detention post trial, for our client to serve such within the Swedish prison system," he wrote.

According to Jordanian lawyer Mohamed Rashdan, also representing Saddam Hussein, it will take the defence team at least six months to review files in the case. "There is considerable speculation with regard to a number of allegations of charges our client may face but to date no charges have been forthcoming," Mr. Di Stefano said.

Saddam Hussein was originally facing up to 500 charges, but they've been cut down to 10 major charges, including using chemicals against Iraqi citizens in the 1980s.

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