British barrister Anthony Scrivener to defend Saddam


Sat, Oct 15, 2005 - Page 6

Saddam Hussein's family have chosen one of Britain's best-known barristers to defend the former Iraqi president at his trial for mass murder which is due to start in Baghdad next week.

Anthony Scrivener QC, a former chairman of the Bar Council, has been asked to go to Iraq to head the defense in what will be one of the most closely watched trials of recent times.

The approach to Scrivener, whose high-profile clients have included Dame Shirley Porter, Asil Nadir, Winston Silcott and Gerry Conlon of the Guildford Four, was made on behalf of Saddam's daughter, Raghad Saddam Hussein.

Saddam himself is said to be in "upbeat" mood about the trial.

Scrivener's clerk, Martin Hart, confirmed last night that the British lawyer had been asked to represent Saddam.

"Mr. Scrivener has been approached to lead a legal team to challenge the lawfulness of the tribunal trying Saddam Hussein," a statement issued by his chambers said. Hart stressed that no final agreement had been made.

Desmond Doherty, a lawyer who worked on the Bloody Sunday inquiry into the shooting dead by British paratroopers of 13 demonstrators in Northern Ireland in 1972, is also said to be part of the team. He was not available for comment last night.

The prosecution has assembled an 800-page dossier outlining the case against Saddam, according to last night's BBC TV.

The charges so far relate to the execution ination attempt on him, will form the heart of the case. He is also charged with torture and forced expulsion.

It is understood that the defense case will be that the death sentences were passed after a legitimate legal process and that Saddam merely confirmed them in the same way that George Bush, as governor of Texas, confirmed 152 executions.

The exiled Iraqi lawyer Abdul Haq al-Ani, who is another member of the defense team, will challenge the lawfulness of the special tribunal and argue that Saddam is entitled to sovereign immunity as a head of state.

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

He added that Saddam was "upbeat ... in high spirits" and relishing the prospect of the trial due to start on October 19. If convicted, he would face the death penalty.

Last year Scrivener wrote a prescient article in the London Independent on Sunday newspaper in which he suggested that "the trial of Saddam Hussein and some of his nasty colleagues has already degenerated into the realms of a promising theatrical farce."

"The United States wants this to be a showcase for democratic justice -- something to show for the hundreds of lives lost in this escapade," he added:

He also wrote: "There is much to be said for having an experienced international jurist who is entirely unconnected with the allied invaders, on the tribunal."

Scrivener lists his hobbies in Who's Who as car racing and "taking the dog for a walk."