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Saddam to Claim Sovereign Immunity

Saddam Hussein's defense lawyers will argue that he has immunity from prosecution at his trial in Iraq later this month, according to a London-based member of his legal team.

Lawyer Abdel Haq Alani told the BBC the former president will challenge the legality of the special tribunal, due to open inside Baghdad's fortified Green Zone on October 19.

"He had full immunity under the prevailing Iraqi constitution and you cannot have a retroactive legislation that removes that immunity," Alani said in an interview with the BBC's Newsnight program late on Thursday.

Iraqi officials say the only charge against Saddam so far is the killing of more than 140 men in the mostly Shi'ite village of Dujail after a failed 1982 assassination attempt against him.

Alani said the defense will argue that those killed had been found guilty under Iraq's laws and Saddam's only role was to sign their death warrants.

"These people were tried and found guilty and sentenced to death according to the Iraqi criminal code," he told the BBC.

Alani, who told Reuters in September that Saddam had been denied his legal rights, said he still thought the former Iraqi president would not have a fair trial.

"A fundamental element of having justice is to see that there is a fair and impartial trial," he told the BBC. "That I think is not happening in Iraq now."

Despite concerns about the trial, Alani said Saddam had a positive outlook.

"He is in high spirits and is very defiant," he said.

The BBC said Saddam's defense team has just received an 800-page bundle outlining the prosecution case.

The report said many of the pages they have been sent are unreadable and they still have no charge details.

Saddam, who has been held by US forces since they captured him in 2003, sacked his defense team in August to bring in a more professional group.

Alani, an Iraqi born barrister, has assembled a legal team with Khalil Dulaimi, who is based in Baghdad and is the only lawyer who has so far been allowed to meet Saddam.

They have approached British lawyer Anthony Scrivener, who has been involved in some of Britain's most high profile trials, to help defend Saddam, according to the BBC.

No one at Scrivener's office could be reached for comment.

Scrivener helped quash the murder convictions of the so-called "Guildford Four," a group of men who spent 15 years in jail wrongly convicted of an Irish Republican Army bombing that killed five people in 1974.

(Chinadaily.com via agencies October 14, 2005 )

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