Leading British lawyer will probably defend Saddam Hussein at trial

A leading British lawyer has been asked to defend Saddam Hussein at the former Iraqi dictator's trial for mass murder, the attorney's office said Friday. Anthony Scrivener, who once helped free four men wrongfully imprisoned as IRA bombers, had not yet decided whether to take the job, Martin Hart, senior clerk in Scrivener's office, said Thursday.

"Mr. Scrivener has been approached by the people involved in the case but it is wrong to say that he has been instructed on the case," Hart said. "I don't know how many other people have been approached or if Mr. Scrivener will be instructed to undertake the case."

Scrivener, 70, was part of the legal team that freed the "Guildford Four," jailed for two 1975 pub bombings.

Saddam and seven other defendants face their first trial starting Oct. 19 for the massacre of 143 Shiites in the village of Dujail, north of Baghdad, in 1982. Prosecutors have not announced the exact charges, which are expected to be read out in the first sessions. Saddam could face the death penalty if convicted.

Abdul Haq Al Ani, an Iraqi-born lawyer involved in Saddam's defense, told the British Broadcasting Corp. on Thursday that the former Iraqi leader was feeling "upbeat" about the trial.