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Last Updated: Sunday, 5 February 2006, 22:17 GMT
Lawyers 'denied access to Saddam'
Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein walked out of court a week ago
The chief lawyer for deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein says he has been denied access to his client for the first time in more than a year.

Khalil Dulaimi says the US military authorities turned down his request without giving any reason.

There was no immediate response from the US officials in Baghdad.

Defence lawyers walked out of court hearings last week after accusing the new Kurdish chief judge, Raouf Abdul Rahman, of being biased.

Mr Rahman decided to press ahead with the case, asking court-appointed lawyers to take over the defence.

"We were notified by the Americans today that neither I nor the rest of the defence counsel can meet the president or our other clients," Mr Dulaimi told Reuters news agency in Amman on Sunday.

He went on: "Preventing the visits is illegal and prevents the president from having a fair trial."

Defendants no-show

The defence team has called for the removal of Judge Abdul Rahman, saying he cannot maintain impartiality because his home town of Halabja was famously attacked with poison gas by Iraqi forces in 1988.

A week ago, Saddam Hussein and two other defendants walked out of the courtroom in support of their defence team's stance.

Their trial resumed briefly a few days later with only a few of the defendants attending. The former Iraqi president did not make an appearance.

Saddam Hussein and his co-defendants are accused of the 1982 killings of 148 Shia villagers in Dujail - charges they deny.

They could face the death penalty if convicted of the killings, which followed an assassination attempt on Saddam Hussein.



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