BAGHDAD, Iraq – Gunmen killed a second defense lawyer in the trial of Saddam Hussein and seven co-defendants Tuesday, throwing the controversial proceedings into greater turmoil and casting new doubt on the credibility of the tribunal.
Adel Zubeidi, who was representing former Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan, was slain in a drive-by shooting in western Baghdad. Thamer al-Khuzaie, another lawyer for the ex-vice president, was wounded.
Zubeidi’s slaying came 2 1/2 weeks after the killing of Saadoun Janabi, who was defending Awad Hamed Bandar, the former head of the dictator’s Revolutionary Court. Saddam, Ramadan and Bandar are among eight former regime officials charged with planning and ordering the revenge killings of 146 people from the town of Dujail, where a 1982 assassination attempt against Saddam took place. All of them face possible death sentences.
Iraqi authorities said they had no suspects in the case, and the motive remained unclear. Some analysts speculated that Saddam’s enemies are trying to weaken his defense and make a death sentence more likely. Others asserted that Saddam supporters may be trying to discredit and derail the proceedings.
With legal experts around the globe already questioning whether the tribunal – set up without U.N. authorization – is legitimate or fair, the attorneys’ slayings have raised further doubts about the wisdom of holding such an important trial in Iraq’s violent climate.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times less than 24 hours before he was wounded by gunfire, al-Khuzaie complained about the dangers facing him and his colleagues.
“We don’t think this trial is working well because of the risks we’re facing,” al-Khuzaie said. “The country is filled with political militias.”
The remaining dozen or so defense attorneys in the case have vowed to boycott the trial, scheduled to resume Nov. 28. “We will boycott the tribunal, and we demand that it should take place in another country,” said defense lawyer Majid Sadoon. “There is no security, nor stability.”