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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 June 2006, 19:48 GMT 20:48 UK
Saddam Hussein 'on hunger strike'
Khamis al-Obeidi
Police said Mr Obeidi's body was found near Sadr City
Saddam Hussein has begun a hunger strike in protest at the killing of a senior defence lawyer at his trial, members of his legal team say.

Khamis al-Obeidi's body was found dumped in the Iraqi capital hours after he was abducted from his home.

Saddam Hussein and his seven co-accused have vowed not to eat until their defence team received "international protection", Khalil al-Dulaimi said.

The eight are being tried in Baghdad charged with crimes against humanity.

The defendants deny being responsible for the deaths of 148 Shia Muslim villagers following an assassination attempt on Saddam Hussein in 1982.

Third victim

Khalil al-Dulaimi, Saddam's chief defence lawyer, said the defendants "went on a hunger strike today to protest the killing of Khamis al-Obeidi".

"They pledged not to end the strike until international protection is provided to the defence team," he told the Associated Press.

Saddam Hussein in court
Prosecutors have called for Saddam Hussein's execution

Defence lawyers have frequently complained that they have not been given enough protection, calling the trial's fairness into question.

Two other defence lawyers were murdered last year in the early stages of the trial, which is set to end next month.

In a BBC interview after one of his colleagues was killed last year, Mr Obeidi strongly denounced what he called the "assassination", and complained that the trial lawyers mostly had to organise their own personal protection.

Another lawyer on Saddam's defence team, Bushra al-Khalil, blamed US forces for Mr Obeidi's death, saying they had changed security arrangements for the lawyers, putting their lives at risk.

US sources say they have offered tougher security but that it has always been rejected, the BBC's Hugh Sykes in Baghdad says.

Stayed in Baghdad

Mr Obeidi was abducted from his home in Baghdad's northern Adhamiya district at about 0700 local time (0300 GMT) on Wednesday by men wearing police uniforms, said Mr Dulaimi.

Police said Mr Obeidi's body was found with several bullet wounds near the Shia district of Sadr City.

While Mr Dulaimi travels between Amman in Jordan and Baghdad for security reasons, Mr Obeidi had continued to live in the Iraqi capital.

Mr Obeidi was in court in Baghdad on Monday to hear the prosecution team make its closing arguments.

The prosecutors called for Saddam Hussein and two of his seven co-defendants to be put to death for war crimes.

The trial has now adjourned and judges will consider their verdict after final defence arguments on 10 July.




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