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After killing, calls to move Hussein trial follow

A lawyer representing one of Hussein's codefendants was assassinated Friday.

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The murder of a lawyer acting for one of Saddam Hussein's codefendants has led to renewed calls for the former president's trial to be moved abroad, even as Iraq's current government insists he'll be tried inside the country and nowhere else.

The likelihood of a change of venue or extended delays is slim, with Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari insisting the trial will not be moved and suggesting the murder was organized by supporters of Mr. Hussein to discredit the court.

The murdered lawyer, Sadoun al-Janabi, was representing Awad Hamed al-Bandar, who was head of Hussein's Revolutionary Court and had signed death warrants on many of the former president's political opponents. Mr. Janabi was dragged from his Baghdad office Friday by men who witnesses said were wearing police uniforms, and then executed on the street.

The Iraqi Bar Association on Sunday urged lawyers not to work on the Hussein trial until Janabi's murder is solved. But Khamees al-Ubaidi, one of Hussein's two lawyers, said he had no intention of stopping work on the case.

Mr. Ubaidi admits after the death of a "good lawyer and a friend" he is in turn very worried about his own life. "I leave it in God's hands,'' he says. "My job requires me to defend any accused man, and I couldn't accept backing down now."

Ubaidi says he doesn't think a fair trial is possible in Iraq's current security environment, laughing that he - like everyone else at the court - was not allowed to bring in his own pens or pads of paper. He says the defense will continue to insist on moving the trial abroad.

Over the weekend, Human Rights Watch also said it was worried about physical danger threatening a fair trial, but stopped short of calling for a move.

"We are gravely concerned that this killing will have a chilling effect on the willingness of competent lawyers to vigorously defend the accused in these cases. Such an outcome will seriously undermine the ability of the court to provide a fair trial,'' Richard Dicker, the director of the group's international justice program, said in a statement. The tribunal should "take immediate steps to ensure the security and safety of defense counsel and defense witnesses, and their families."


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