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French, Jordanian lawyers fight over Saddam

PARIS, March 29 (AFP) – A public tussle over who has the right to represent Saddam Hussein broke out Monday between a French and a Jordanian lawyer, each claiming they had been given the high-profile case by relatives of the ousted Iraqi president.

Jacques Verges, a French lawyer who has won a controversial reputation for taking on Gestapo chief Klaus Barbie and the terrorist known as Carlos the Jackal as clients, insisted to AFP that he had been “well and truly designated by relatives” of Saddam.

On Saturday, he announced he had received a letter from Saddam’s nephew Ali Barzan al-Tikriti asking him to represent his uncle, who was captured by US forces in Iraq in December.

Verges brushed off a claim by Jordanian lawyer Mohammad Rashdan that he had not been legitimately appointed.

Rashdan, in comments to AFP, said he had been contacted by Saddam’s wife and eldest daughter to personally represent the former Iraqi leader, and that Verges had no right to representation.

But Verges told AFP that “I am not going to spend my time in shopfloor quarrelling” with another lawyer, adding: “I have more urgent matters to tend to, with the International Committee of the Red Cross and the International Criminal Court.”

Rashdan, who represented Saddam over Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait and refuses to acknowledge that the former leader has since been deposed, said: “I have been designated in writing by the Iraqi president’s wife, Mrs Sajida.

He added that he “met with the president’s daughter, Raghad, who has power of attorney in this issue, on the second and third day of the president’s arrest” in December by US forces occupying Iraq.

However, he said he had not been able to see Saddam and has been out of contact with Raghad, who was living in Jordan on condition of not taking any “political role”.

“Due to these circumstances we preferred not to meet with the president’s daughters and we are working in a distance from them,” Rashdan said.

Nevertheless, he contended that Saddam’s family specifically did not want Verges involved because of the French lawyer’s part in advising former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosovic in his ongoing trial for crimes against humanity.

“What I know is that the family refused to appoint him simply because there are many differences between the legal status of Saddam Hussein and Milosovic,” Rashdan said.

He also said that “a group of 15 to 20 Arab lawyers and some international barristers have written authorisations (to defend Saddam Hussein),” but refused to give their names.

In an interview with the French newspaper Le Parisien, he said he attended a meeting Saturday in Cairo that included lawyers from Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, Jordan and France, “to put our strategy into place”.

The deputy secretary of the Cairo-based Arab Lawyers’ Union, Saber Ammar, confirmed such a meeting took place and said his organisation had formed a Saddam “defence committee”.

He said the committee met with a French lawyer, Emmanuel Ludot, and could also cooperate with Verges and with the Iraqi union of lawyers to work out a strategy.

Verges, for his part, said Sunday that he planned to summon US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger to reveal Washington’s past alleged links with Iraq.

The French lawyer insisted that Washington and Britain – which together staged last year’s invasion of Iraq to topple Saddam – were responsible for providing the former Iraqi president with his supposed arsenal of illicit weapons.

He also accused those two countries of causing a massive number of civilian deaths through economic sanctions and their bombing runs.

“If any crime against humanity took place, if there was any genocide, it was committed by the British and the Americans,” he added.

Verges has said he is not sure where Saddam will eventually be brought to trial: in Iraq, before a US court, or before the International Criminal Court, the world’s first permanent war crimes tribunal.


                                               Subject: French news