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Saddam trial observers warn of government interference as Clark meets accused

[JURIST] Observers of the trial of Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive] warned Tuesday that mounting political pressure threatens the independence and fairness of the Iraqi High Criminal Court [official website] trying the ousted Iraqi leader. A Human Rights Watch [official website] spokesman noted that although Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari [BBC news profile] has not directly intervened in the proceeding, his public complaints [JURIST report] that the court is moving too slowly have undermined the court's ability to create an environment for a fair trial. Another observer from the International Center for Transnational Justice [official website] asserted that a lack of transparency in the court proceedings further exacerbated public sentiment that the trial was moving too slowly. Hussein's trial is currently in recess until December 5, to give the defense time to replace two of its lawyers who were assassinated [JURIST report] and one who fled the country [JURIST report] after the trial opened. Former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark, who joined Saddam's defense team as an advisor Monday, had an unexpected meeting [AP report] with the incarcerated ex-president Tuesday and reported that he was in "extremely good spirits" given that he has been held in "total isolation" from friends and family. AP has more.

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