French, U.S. lawyers offer to defend Saddam in trial as daughter says family seeks fair and legal trial

Published December 16th, 2003 - 02:00 GMT

Captured former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein already has at least two lawyers who are prepared to defend him.  


For one, a French defense lawyer, also known as the "devil's advocate" said Monday he would be prepared to defend Saddam Hussein and that the former president must be presumed innocent at any trial.  


Jacques Verges, a former French Resistance fighter who later campaigned against colonialism, has represented Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie and Carlos the Jackal in the past. Verges said hiding Saddam away was against international conventions.  


"If he had to be prosecuted tomorrow, he would have to be presumed innocent," Verges told French radio station Europe 1, and added that Saddam should be allowed to receive visitors if he is held as a prisoner of war. 


Verges has taken on some tough cases in the past. Barbie, also known as the "butcher of Lyon", was jailed for life in 1987 for crimes against humanity in Nazi-occupied France. Carlos the Jackal is serving a life sentence in France for a wave of deadly attacks in Europe in the 1970s and 80s. 


Meanwhile, former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark was quoted on an Islamic Web site saying he would take the job of defending Saddam.  


Verges, when asked if he was ready to defend Saddam Hussein, replied, "Yes." However, he stressed he was only speaking hypothetically.  


Charges against the former leader could focus on the campaign against Iraqi Kurds in the 1980s, the reported use of "chemical weapons" on Iranian troops and Kurdish civilians, the suppression of the Kurdish and Shi'ite uprisings in 1991, the punishment of the Marsh Arabs and the forced expulsions of ethnic minorities in the north.  


Verges warned such charges could implicate Western leaders who once backed Saddam.  


"If he is judged and treated like a pariah, clearly his defence counsel would have to say 'but this pariah was the friend of all the Western heads of state. He was not only their friend but their ally'," Verges said.  


In referance to allegations of "atrocities", Verges conveyed, "It must be established whether everything that happened was rumor or not, and what the responsibility was of the allies of the former Iraqi government."  


Meanwhile, the family of Tariq Aziz, 67, has approached Verges to defend the former Iraqi deputy prime minister before a proposed war crimes tribunal in Baghdad. 


Aziz's daughter, Zeinab, wants Jacques Verges to represent her father when he is tried for his role in Saddam Hussein's regime.  


In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, Zeinab Aziz criticized the new tribunal as "victors' justice" and said it would deny her father the chance of a fair hearing.  


"What is his crime?" she asked. "Serving his country as well as he could? If he ever killed anybody, we would know about it. False information was spread about my father by people exiled from Iraq. These new trials are supposed to be just and free from vengeance, but it seems that some people will decide the verdict beforehand."  


Aziz's daughter said, "He was just a spokesman for Saddam, and was trying to serve the country when it was in a very bad situation. If he had refused to do his job, he would have been killed like anybody else.  


"Some of the others did horrible things to the Iraqi people and they should be put on trial. But all the world knows the difference between my father and them."  


The daughter claimed that her family was also victimized by the regime. "We were as afraid of Saddam as anybody: My brother Ziad was put in jail when he fell out with Saddam's family. My father was not the kind of person who asked for favors." 


Aziz's daughter was not the only one who had what to say on her father's case. Saddam Hussein's daughter Raghad, speaking to a Dubai based station from Jordan, said she and her sisters want an international trial for their father. 


"He should not be tried by the [interim] Governing Council which was installed by occupiers," Raghad told the Al Arabiya television on Tuesday. 


"We want an international, fair and legal trial," she said, adding that the former Iraqi president's family would appoint a lawyer to defend him.  


Raghad said her father seemed sedated in footage released Sunday by the U.S.-led occupation authority after his capture. "Every honest person who knows Saddam knows that he is strong and powerful. Saddam was tranquilized when captured," she said.  


"He would be a lion even when caged," she added. ( 

© 2003 Al Bawaba (

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