In an exclusive interview with Aljazeera, Muhamad al-Rashdan lawyer of Sajida Khair Allah, wife and cousin of Saddam Hussein revealed she had signed an official power of attorney authorising a group of 20 lawyers the right to defend her husband.

Saddam's three daughters Raghd, Rana, and Hala had authorised their mother to select the defence panel.

The 20 lawyers consist of Arab - mostly Jordanians, including Muhamad al-Rashdan and Hussain Mjalli chairman of the Jordan Bar Association - and foreign lawyers.

Al-Rashdan told Aljazeera on 29 March, 2003 that he and Mjalli were the only lawyers assigned by Saddam Hussein’s family to defend their father.

He said the family contacted him on 14 December 2003 one day after Saddam Hussein was taken prisoner by US occupation forces in Iraq and asked him to look after the legal interests of the president.

French claim

The controversial French lawyer Jacques Verges who is best-known for defending the Nazi leader Klaus Barbie and Carlos the Jackal had said that he was authorised by Saddam's brother's family to defend their imprisoned uncle.

The power of attorney signed by
Saddam's wife  

Sources close to the panel said that Verges is unlikely to be included in the defence panel.

The defence panel received a letter from Saudi Arabian law firm Al-Shammari offering to participate in Saddam's defence for free.

However, Al-Shammari Law Firm has yet to receive an answer. 

Illegal measures

The panel contests the legality of the arrest of President Saddam Hussein by US occupation troops.

Al-Rashdan and Mjalli argue that given the invasion of Iraq has no legal basis, US-led occupation forces have no right to change or cancel the Iraqi constitution.

"Article 40 in the Iraqi constitution stipulates that the head of the state enjoys immunity against persecution." al-Rashdan said.

"Iraq, Iraqi people, Iraqi law, and the Iraqi president were hijacked," Mjalli said "the occupation of Iraq was illegal so ipso facto everything that follows is illegal."

Broader action 

However, Mjalli said the power of attorney was worthless if US occupation authorities continued to prevent them from meeting President Saddam Hussein.

Al-Rashdan: The detention of
Saddam Hussein is illegal 

"According to law, the paper we have got authorises us to ask President Saddam Hussein if he agrees to us defending him in court," Mjalli said.

"Therefore, if we cannot meet President Saddam we will not be able to proceed with our defence."  

The chairman of the Jordan Bar Association told Aljazeera.net that he urges the panel to make its work institutional under the umbrella of the Arab Union of Lawyers.

"It would be very useful if the Arab Union of Lawyers or Arab League takes the responsibility of following up the request to meet President Saddam Hussein. That would give the panel a bigger chance to meet the president."