by Ahmed Janabi – Al Jazeera

Najib al-Nauimi, the former Qatari justice minister who has joined Saddam Hussein’s defence team, says the injustice that the deposed president has been facing was his main motive for joining the team. interviewed al-Nauimi in Doha and had the following conversation with him. How did you join Saddam Hussein’s defence team?

Najib al-Noaimi: President Saddam sent me a personal request to join his defence team.

Do you know Saddam Hussein personally?

No, even when I was Qatar’s minister of justice between 1995 and 1997 I neither met met Saddam Hussein nor any of his government members.

Why, then, did he ask for your help in his case?

Maybe he heard about me.

Why did you agree to defend Saddam Hussein?

Because my job is to defend anyone suffer from injustice; and I strongly believe that president Saddam Hussein is a victim of injustice.

I would like to say here that this case is different from normal legal cases. No lawyer can evaluate the chances of winning this case.

The political background of this court undermines the legal process of the trial.

How this court is so different from other criminal courts?

First of all, it was established under law number 10 by the former US administrator of Iraq, Paul Bremer. This act violates the international law and Iraqi law, in addition to the serious violation committed when the law was translated to Arabic, when the right of cassation was dropped on purpose.

The international law prevents the occupying force from setting up courts and passing of laws. This means the court violates the international law.

But Iraqis say they are now an independent state and have an elected government and parliament.

Geneva conventions define the occupation by “actual presence of soldiers”, so when the situation in Iraq is presented as a restoration of sovereignty that does not mean Iraq enjoys sovereignty, because the international law depends on “action” not “saying”. 

The actual case on the ground is there are 135,000 US soldiers in Iraq in addition to several thousand others from different states.

Iraq now is administered by the occupying forces. Artificial elections do not give legitimacy, otherwise, the Vichy government in France would have enjoyed legitimacy.

The US and its allies criticised the elections and political process under the German-appointed Vichy government. Moreover, the Vichy government prompted them to write the fourth Geneva convention, which bans the occupier from changing the laws of the occupied country.

I wonder why the US is committing a mistake that the US itself criticised in the past?

Furthermore, how can the Iraqi government claim they are independent while some days ago US vice-president Dick Cheney made a visit to Iraq without even notifying the Iraqi government? How that is OK? 

Iraqi PM Ibrahim al-Jaafari said he was called to the US embassy and was surprised to see Cheney sitting there. I do not think there is any kind of national sovereignty in Iraq nowadays.

What we saw was an Iraqi prosecutor filing a law suit against Saddam Hussein in an Iraqi court run by Iraqi judges. Is that right?

Christopher Reid is running the show.

Who is Mr Reid? 

This person is described in reliable western media such as in an article published in the New York Times on December 23, 2005 by John F Burns.

The article says: “But US officials who played a major role in organising the court have said that the month long break will also give Amin time to rethink the wide leeway he has given the former Iraqi ruler to dominate the trial.”

And the same article says “… remarks made by Christopher Reid, the US Justice Department lawyer who heads the American effort to guide the Iraqi court …” 

We would be misleading ourselves and the public if we describe the court trying president Saddam Hussein as an Iraqi court.

Mr Reid and dozens of lawyers belong to the Regime Crime Liaison in the US embassy in Baghdad are running the show.

Hence, the court is illegal because it is run by an occupying force, which is a serious violation of the international law.

Is not it better for you as lawyers to concentrate on defending your client rather than keep yourself busy with proving the court’s illegitimacy?

I think that proving court’s illegitimacy is very important. This court is a special court designed to try selected people, and this is again a violation of the international law which prohibits the occupying forces from setting up special courts.

Special courts usually designed to provide an artificial trial, as long as the court is special we expect the sentence is ready in the office of Mr Reid.

Have you met Mr Reid or his lawyers?

Yes, and I discussed with them the violations which mar the trial process.

What was their reply? 

They told me it is my point of view; i.e we will do whatever suits us. They are working on a pick and choose system; they choose what they like and ignore what they do not like.

Back to the trial itself, how do you evaluate Saddam’s chances?

The prosecution and the witnesses are trying to prove that there was no assassination attempt, but this is nonsense.

There were more than seventy individuals involved in the assassination attempt. More than thirty shooters were stationed in the farms from which the president’s motorcade was hit.

Dozens were covering the hit squad. That means there was a military squad involved in the assassination attempt. All those who survived the shootout were illegally transferred to Iran. They crossed the borders to Iran on motorbikes.

I really do not know how they dare to deny the assassination attempt! For years al-Dawa party officials flexed their muscles in every possible media outlet saying they challenged the Iraq’s strongman Saddam Hussein by trying to assassinate him inside Iraq.

What is your version of the story of what happened that day?

The assassination attempt was organised by the then Iran-based al-Dawa party of the current prime minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari.

They call it “operation the deer”, because on that day an old lady slaughtered a deer to show her happiness at the president’s visit.

According to an Iraqi tradition you stain the car of the celebrated person with the blood of sacrificed animal, and that is what the old lady did, but not to celebrate the president’s presence in fact to give the attackers a sign that this is the car in which the president is. 

Given the fact that the president enjoys high intelligence sense and given the fact that the visit was a challenge to al-Dawa party’s call on the president to visit al-Dujail, he changed the car and took another one. 

The attackers, as planned, hit the blood-stained car and a shootout ensued. Several presidential bodyguards and civilians were killed in the exchange of fire.

So, we are talking about an assassination attempt against the head of the state committed by people secretly connected to Iran, which was in a state of war wit Iraq at that time.

What do you expect from the Iraq government? Of course it tries to defend itself and the country.

Here I would like to explain why entire families were detained at that time. The reason is the lady who sacrificed the deer proved to the Iraqi authorities that the plot involves certain individuals in al-Dujail and their families.

But why were they thrown in the desert for years?

First of all we must say that keeping those families in the desert for years was an administrative error. But that does not mean the president is responsible for the errors of the lower staff, otherwise we must try George Bush for what his soldiers did in Abu Ghraib.

Also, they were not thrown in the open desert, they were in decent houses locked from inside not from outside, which means they were not treated as prisoners.

What do you expect to happen in this trial?

If the trial is really fair, as they claim, the president will be acquitted, because nothing is really against him up to this moment, but if it is just a show, then you know what will happen. 

I hope they do not forget that the world is watching. I have information that a billion people around the world watched the trial.

The chief lawyer in Saddam Hussein’s defence team, Khalil al-Dulaimi, said that when the live transmission of the trial was cut, Saddam’s half-brother, Barazan al-Takriti, said he was offered by the Americans a senior position in the Iraqi government in exchange for testifying against his brother. Is that right?

Yes that is right.

What are your defence plans for the future?

I cannot reveal much to you, but I can say that there will be very strong defence witnesses who will pull the carpet from under the prosecutors’ feet.

Our witnesses will be protected by the US’s Witness Protection Programme.

But this is an American programme, why it will be implemented in Iraq?

Whether we like it or not, Iraq now is the 53rd American state.

Source: Al Jazeera

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