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Lawyers willing to defend Saddam won't be hard to find

http://www.jewishworldreview.com | (KRT) When Saddam Hussein has his day in court, he will need a lawyer at his side.

And experts say that startling as it sounds, there will be no shortage of international high-priced, top-shelf defenders, though many in the world believe that representing Saddam would be akin to defending Pol Pot or Hitler, "Papa Doc" or Stalin.

When dealing with Nazi war criminals, Winston Churchill said, firing squads, not tribunals, were the appropriate remedy. But that is not what Saddam will face.

"I am sure there'll be a whole squad of attorneys to defend him," said Kenneth Anderson, a fellow at the Hoover Institute at Stanford University and an expert in international law.

And that's what the American government hopes, Anderson added. Above all, the United States wants the world to see that skilled lawyers oversaw Saddam's interests during a fair and serious trial, he said.

"The Iraqi War Crimes tribunal - being advised by America - is going to make sure the trial is done in a very open, very, very defendant-friendly way, so nobody doubts the vast amount of proof of the thousands of victims" of Saddam's reign, Anderson said. "There will be every incentive to make it look like a model trial."

What's in it for a lawyer? Never underestimate the attraction of fame, said Harry Reicher, a professor of international law at the University of Pennsylvania.

"I could mention a few U.S. defense attorneys who would bust a gut to defend him," Reicher said, and then declined to do so. "There's no such thing as bad publicity. And it can only be good for business."

Anderson disagreed with the idea that attorneys such as Johnnie Cochran or Alan Dershowitz would be hopping the next red-eye to Baghdad. "This is not an O.J.-type case," Anderson said. "Hussein has no U.S. constituency, and nobody looks at him and thinks he's innocent."

Anderson said Iraqi lawyers would likely have an important role in the case, although he guessed that U.S. military lawyers might be part of the team, to assure expertise in international and military law. Saddam's daughter said she was prepared to pay any amount to assure a strong defense for her father.

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Whoever the Iraqi attorneys are, they had better be on record as being anti-Saddam, or they could risk assassination by relatives of the estimated hundreds of thousands of Saddam's alleged victims, experts say.

In preparing a case, defense attorneys would have to address Saddam's three major alleged crimes, Reicher said: large-scale murder and torture; genocide (murder with intent to destroy a group of people, such as the Kurds); and war crimes - for example, violations of the rules of war in Kuwait.

Then there is Saddam's reputation for viciousness. A less likable client would be hard to conjure up, said Daniel Dodson, a Missouri criminal defense lawyer.

"Still, almost every criminal defense lawyer defends someone who all the public believes is guilty and a truly bad person," Dodson said. "A lawyer can put that aside, and look for anything to make the client look sympathetic, and cast doubt on the evidence."

Admittedly, it would be monumentally difficult to beat the prosecution, said John Cerone, a law professor and a member of the War Crimes Research Office in Washington. So Saddam's attorneys would likely attack the legitimacy of the Iraqi tribunal. A Saddam lawyer could argue that his client belongs in an international court that does not recognize the death penalty, Anderson said.

This is what another former dictator, Slobodan Milosevic, has been doing at the Yugoslav war tribunal - while serving as his own attorney - Cerone said.

Although the U.S.-backed coalition authority has suspended the death penalty in Iraq, it could be brought back after sovereignty is restored July 1.

Another defense tactic might be to attack the link between Saddam and the atrocities he is accused of ordering, said Mark Vlasic, a former prosecutor of Milosevic in Belgrade.

"How do you trace the killings on the ground to Saddam Hussein?" Vlasic asked. "You've got to prove linkage between a political leader and his subordinates."

Dodson said a good defense lawyer could cast doubt on the evidence and ask, "How do we know that Saddam wasn't a puppet leader doing the bidding of someone else?"

If all that sounds distasteful, that's just the nature of the defense business, legal experts say.

Ultimately, given the Saddam government's propensity to catalog killings carried out in its name, there will doubtless be evidence against the fallen dictator that will be hard to rebut, Anderson said.

In the end, he added, a good defense attorney might be able to avoid the death penalty. "What you hope for," Anderson said, "is that he ends up in a cell - maybe next to Milosevic's."

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