Aljazeera.net received a copy of the heavily censored message, which was delivered to Saddam's eldest daughter, in Amman, Jordan, after representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross visited her on 21 February.

 

The letter, apparently in Saddam's handwriting, reads in part: "In the name of God the Merciful... To my small family and my big family, salam alaikum... As for my spirit and my morale, they are high, thanks to the greatness of God. And say hello to everyone."

 

Saddam's family has selected a panel of 20 lawyers to defend the former president. The defence team has sent a delegation to the US to meet officials, in an attempt to convince them to approve a meeting with Saddam.

 

Team member Issam al-Ghazzawi told Aljazeera.net that many letters have been sent to US officials, including President George Bush.

 

"We want them to grant Saddam Hussein the simplest right of POWs in history, which is to meet his lawyer" al-Ghazzawi said.

 

The defence team has been threatening to file a lawsuit against countries of the US-led "coalition of the willing".

 

"If they had acknowledged our right to meet the president, they would have saved themselves a lot of trouble" he said.

 

"But they did not; we are going to take them to courts in Washington DC, Paris, London, and many other places."

 

Mission

 

Al-Ghazzawi said the lawyers would be acting pro bono.

 

"We are a group of 20 lawyers who have agreed to take care of the financial expenses of this case. We do not accept funds from any group."

Saddam and his daughter Ragad 
in a photo from the 1980s

He said the team's mission was to challenge US hegemony.

 

"If we do not stand by President Saddam Hussein, then we should expect the day that the US would say I do not like this president or that ruler, and the world should obey."

 

Homecoming wish

 

Arab media has reported that Saddam's daughter Ragad is planning to return to Iraq and play a political role. Secret efforts have been going on to preserve a place for the Baath party in the coming Iraqi government.

 

Sources close to Saddam's daughter said she is yearning to return to Iraq, to the extent that her family fears she is seriously homesick.

 

Earlier reports said relations between Ragad Saddam - who took refuge in Jordan last year - and the Jordanian authorities had reached crisis point on many occasions, because of Ragad's public statements.

 

Al-Ghazzawi dismissed the reports and said the defence team would be the first to know anything about the family.

 

"I have never heard anything like this from her. She would tell us if she wants to return to Iraq.

 

"Her relationship with the Jordanian authorities is good. She understands very well that a high ranking guest should not embarrass his/her host," al-Ghazzawi said.

 

Wish unrealistic

 

Dhafir al-Hilfi, the former secretary of Saddam's son Udai said he believes she would face endless problems if she were to return to Iraq.

 

"I believe even if her life were to be threatened, she would not think of going back, it is not logical.

"If we do not stand
by President Saddam Hussein, then we should expect the day that the US would say I do not like this president or that ruler, and the world should obey"

Issam al-Ghazzawi, member of Saddam defence team

"The situation in Iraq that she left has not changed. On what basis would she be thinking of returning?" al-Hilfi said.

 

Ragad told the Arabic magazine Sayyidati (My Lady) that she would love to return to Iraq, but fears an "Abu Ghraib scenario".

 

"I would like to return to my country if there is a chance. It is not the fear of being killed that prevents me from going back, it is the fear of facing the same destiny as the prisoners held in Abu Ghraib" the 36-year-old said.