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Lawyers scramble to stop Iraqis from hanging Saddam co-defendants

[JURIST] Lawyers representing Awad Hamed al-Bandar [Wikipedia profile], former chief judge of Iraq's Saddam Hussein-era Revolutionary Court, and former Iraqi intelligence chief Barzan Ibrahim al Tikriti [GlobalSecurity profile] Wednesday mounted last-minute legal challenges to prevent their clients' executions, currently expected [JURIST report] to take place Thursday before dawn. Both men were convicted and sentenced to death [JURIST report; BBC verdict summary] in November alongside Hussein for crimes committed in the village of Dujail in 1982.

In a statement provided to JURIST Wednesday, Curtis Doebbler, an American lawyer representing al-Bandar, said:

The US controlled Iraqi government is planning a second and third summary, arbitrary and extrajudicial execution today in the next few hours. One of the persons who will be executed is Judge Awad Bandar, the judge that presided over the Dujail Trial. He will be killed for being a judge and presiding over a trial, nothing more, because nothing more was proven. In fact, throughout the Dujail Trial Judge Bandar repeatedly asked for the court papers relating to the 1982-1984 proceedings over which he presided to prove that the proceedings were fair. The court and the prosecution said they had these papers, indeed the prosecution introduced 4 pages into evidence, but they both refused to provide the defendant access to the full record. I do not know if the 1982 trial was fair, and we may never know, certainly not before Judge Bandar is executed. And this was only one of dozens of violations of the right to fair trial that would have undoubtedly led to a mistrial anywhere else in the world and which had led the UN's expert on Fair trial to conclude that fair trial can not take place in front of the Iraqi Special Tribunal. If the execution of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was aggressor's injustice on the first day of the holy Eid for Sunni Muslims, the execution of Judge Bandar will be a direct affront to the most basic principles of justice in Islam. This is the legacy that the United States is leaving the Iraqi people. It is a very sad one.

Equally as troubling is the suspect manner in which several courts and human rights bodies have treated our applications to save Judge Bandar's life that were made in the last few days. Last week, US District Judge Walton dismissed an action for a temporary order restraining the United States from turning Judge Bandar over to person who will execute him after an unfair trial. Judge Walton reasoned, that although the six US attorneys had conceded that Judge Bandar was under exclusive US custody, the Petitioner was really under international coalition custody. More recently, the Executive Secretary Mr. Santiago Canton claimed that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights had refused a Request for Urgent Precautionary Measures without providing reasons for this decision or a written decision from the Commission. Such strained legal reasoning is surprisingly weak in such a grave case and extremely troubling for the rule of law in the American hemisphere.
In the meantime, Giovanni Di Stefano, a UK-based Italian lawyer representing al-Tikriti, has said that he will file an application in US District Court on Thursday seeking a temporary restraining order preventing the US military from transferring custody of his client to Iraqi officials.

In a statement on his website, Di Stefano wrote from Baghdad:
We are not asking the court to stay an execution but for a TRO in injuncting [sic] the US military in handing Mr. Barzan Al Takriti to the actual custody of the Iraqi Government. ...

Barzan Al Takriti was the Head of the Iraqi Intelligence Services in July 1982 during the Dujail matter subject to the indictment. However, he resigned office in March 1983 and until 1988 was virtually under house arrest in Baghdad. He was made Ambassador to Switzerland in 1988 and remained so until 1999. He is not indicted for the Anfal allegations because he was not in office in 1988 during the relevant period. Since my client resigned office and had no function whatsoever it is in effect an alibi positioon to any allegations that occured first in 1984 when the executions took place and 1987 when the last execution occured in the Dujail matter. I am informed today by my client in an interview that when the US military arrested him the US military took his archive with over 100 letters including his resignation letter. He has not been permitted these documents and has had no opportunity at a proper defence especially alibi...

Until such time as the US District Court rules on our application the US military is requested not to circumvent our application by handing him over from US de facto custody.

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