Thu, Jul 08, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Arab nations to fund Saddam's team of lawyers

TO THE RESCUE Several Arab countries have given an unknown amount of money to the 21 member defense team which will represent Saddam in court

AP , Paris

Arab countries, including Libya, are contributing to a legal defense fund for toppled Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, a French attorney said.

Emmanuel Ludot, the French lawyer serving as part of a 21-member legal team set up to defend Saddam, said Tuesday that "diverse aid and diverse gifts" have already been donated.

He refused to specify how much money had been collected so far or reveal its origins, except to say that some Arab countries have contributed and that the daughter of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, a lawyer who recently joined the committee, has offered some financing.

Gadhafi's eldest daughter, Aicha Moammar Gadhafi, "wanted to provide her logistic and financial aid," Ludot said. "It's Libyan money. It's welcome."

He said funds that Saddam is alleged to hold in overseas accounts also could be used in his defense.

"Our job is to have this money freed up ... so that we can face all the expenses," Ludot said at a news conference in Paris. "I don't despair that we can find someone in the United States to try to negotiate this."

He added that the money in the lawyers' fund was "obviously completely clean."

The attorney said it was not possible to become "Don Quichote's of justice," working for nothing and assuming expenses individually, especially considering how long the trial might take.

Ludot said the committee hopes to extend proceedings as much as possible.

"They told us the trial would be long, complicated, that it would take two years. I don't know," Ludot said, citing Salem Chalabi, general director of the Iraqi court.

"Our work will be to do things in a way so that this tribunal doesn't function, so that it is paralyzed for as long as possible," he added.

He reiterated earlier denunciations of the judges who are to try Saddam and predicted that, as things stand, the trial would be unfair.

The lawyers' committee wants to see Iraqi judges as well as judges designated by the UN.

Ludot cited the UN-sponsored war crimes court in Sierra Leone as a model of how Saddam should be tried.

The trial of rebel military commanders accused in a 10-year campaign for control of Sierra Leone opened Monday.

The committee is led by Jordanian lawyer Mohammed Rashdan, who says he was hired by Saddam's wife Sajida and two daughters.

Ludot said Saddam should choose his own lawyers, but he has been barred from any contact with the outside world.

Saddam was formally handed over to the interim Iraqi government Thursday of last week. However, the US occupying forces are overseeing his detention.

The secret detention site is not far from the Baghdad airport, Ludot said without elaborating.

Asked when he thought a trial of Saddam could start, Ludot said, "Not before the American (presidential) elections" in November. "That's a certainty."

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