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Last Updated: Friday, 14 October 2005, 13:07 GMT 14:07 UK
NI lawyer defends Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein on front page of Iraqi newspaper
The former leader's trial will be followed closely around the world
A Londonderry solicitor is set to defend Saddam Hussein against charges of crimes against humanity.

Des Doherty, who was also involved in the Bloody Sunday inquiry, will act as the former Iraqi leader's solicitor.

He says he is to challenge the legality of Sadddam's trial - to begin next week at a secret location in Iraq.

Mr Doherty is putting together a submission on why he believes the tribunal set up to try Saddam Hussein is illegal.

Saddam's trial is due to begin next Wednesday in Baghdad.

The trial is expected to be one of the biggest in legal history with TV pictures of proceedings to be relayed around the world.

It is understood Anthony Scrivener QC, a prominent human rights lawyer, has been approached to lead the defence.

Mr Scrivener helped free the Guildford Four in 1989.

Saddam Hussein's lawyers have attacked the legitimacy of the tribunal and say they do not know all the charges.

Immunity claim

Chief judge Raed Juhi has said he hopes the proceedings will be televised.

Human rights lawyer Geoffrey Bindman said Mr Scrivener's participation would help to avoid the trial "descending into farce".

"If this is not to become a mockery, [it is important] that there are proper lawyers and good lawyers on the defence side, who can help to make it into a fair process," he said.

Abdel Haq Alani, the Iraqi-born barrister who has assembled the defence team, told Newsnight the Iraqi Special Tribunal where the trial is due to start on 19 October was illegal.

A fundamental part of justice is to ensure there is a fair trial - that is not happening
Defence lawyer Abdel Haq Alani

"It was drafted by an occupying power. It has no right under international law to change the legal system of the occupied land," he said.

The only charges so far detailed against Saddam and seven associates relate to 143 executions in the Shia village of Dujail in 1982, which followed a failed assassination attempt on the leader.

Newsnight was shown the original confirmation of death sentences signed by Saddam.

Unreadable

But the defence will argue that the people executed had been convicted properly and sentenced to death by the courts and that the former Iraqi leader merely confirmed those executions.

It is my legal and moral responsibility to ensure that justice is done
Abdel Haq Alani

It also claims the former leader should have sovereign immunity, like other heads of state including the Queen.

The defence team says it has just received an 800-page bundle outlining the prosecution case but that many pages are unreadable.

It also says the US is running the trial - Newsnight was shown letters to and from Captain Mike McCoy, of the US Defence Department, who the lawyers say is their only channel to their client.

Just one defence lawyer, Khalil Dulaimi, has been allowed to meet Saddam Hussein, they say.

Mr Alani told Newsnight: "It is my legal and moral responsibility to ensure that justice is done and a fundamental part of justice is to ensure there is a fair trial - that, I think, is not happening in Iraq now."


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
See Saddam Hussein's defence team line-up




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