International lawyers of Saddam Hussein unsure when they can visit him again

Foreign members of Saddam Hussein's defense team said Monday they were unsure when they might be allowed again to visit the former Iraqi president, accusing Iraq 's court of barring access to their client.

Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark and Washington-based law professor Curtis Doebbler said "historic truth, public justice and truth" were being undermined by the court, which they say has barred them from seeing Saddam since late January, when chief judge Raouf Abdel-Rahman took over.

"We don't get answers from the court," Doebbler said. "We have not received one piece of paper, one e-mail ... nothing from the court telling us that we can be admitted to Iraq , that we can see the president, or that we can be admitted to the court."

Clark, who previously has had between 15 and 20 contacts with Saddam, also said no international members of Saddam's defense team would be able to attend Tuesday's session in the trial of Saddam, because they have yet to receive permission from the court. Khalil al-Dulaimi, Saddam's chief lawyer in Iraq , will probably be the only member of the team present, he said.

Saddam and co-defendants have been on trial since Oct. 19 in the killing of nearly 150 people from the town of Dujail after a 1982 assassination attempt against Saddam there. They face death by hanging if convicted.

Clark and Doebbler, along with former French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas, said they were in Geneva to press for a fairer judicial process in the trial and would meet later Monday with U.N. human rights chief Louise Arbour.

"They are coming to convey their concerns on the conduct of the trial of Saddam Hussein," said Jose Diaz, spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The trial has been marred by the assassination of two defense lawyers, replacement of the chief judge and criticism by international human rights groups questioning whether Saddam can get a fair trial in Iraq 's polarized climate.

It is unfair, the three said, because the defense team has only a limited capacity in speaking with their clients, calling witnesses, examining evidence and visiting the site of the alleged atrocities.

While the defense has filed a motion to disqualify Abdel-Rahman as the judge, it was unclear if the request would receive a response, Clark said.

Nevertheless, he said he hoped to receive court permission to attend the next hearing if Tuesday's session is postponed. On Sunday, the defense asked the court for a delay because of the country's security situation.

More than 200 people have been killed in sectarian violence since the bombing last week of a revered Shiite Muslim shrine in Samarra and ensuing reprisal attacks on Sunni mosques and clerics across Iraq, reports the AP.


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