Sat, Dec 18, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Saddam sees his defense lawyer for the first time

AP , BAGHDAD

Former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein met with a defense lawyer on Thursday for the first time since his capture a year ago, days before several of his top aides are due to appear in court for hearings on alleged war crimes.

The unidentified attorney spent four hours with the 67-year-old former dictator at his undisclosed detention site, said his chief lawyer, Ziad al-Khasawneh.

"He was in good health and his morale was high and very strong," al-Khasawneh said. "He looked much better that his earlier public appearance when he was arraigned a few months ago."

A US military official in Baghdad familiar with the case confirmed Saddam was visited by a lawyer for the first time since he was found near his hometown of Tikrit on Dec. 13 last year.

The Iraqi interim government's push to get the trials for Saddam's former lieutenants under way before the Jan. 30 national elections has led to dissent even within the Iraqi Cabinet.

"Trials as symbolic as those against the dignitaries of the former regime should only start after the establishment of an Iraqi government with ballot-box legitimacy," Iraqi Justice Minister Malik Dohan al-Hassan told the Geneva daily newspaper Le Temps in an interview published on Thursday.

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