The 20-member team's chief, Muhammad al-Rashdan, told Aljazeera.net that nothing would stop his team from proceeding to Iraq to mount their defence.

 

"We will go to Iraq and defend President Saddam Hussein, the legal president of the Republic of Iraq," al-Rashdan said.

 

"We will sleep in the mosque, we will be in the protection of God, if they want to kill us, let them do it in the house of God."

 

Last week's alleged threats by Iraqi Justice Minister Malik Duhan al-Hasan to Saddam's defence lawyers to cut them into pieces if they come to Iraq, raised doubts that Saddam would get a fair trial.

 

Al-Hasan, who is a Shia Muslim and former Information and Iraqi Bar Association official during Saddam's rule, denied he made such a threat, and said that he just reminded them of Saddam Hussein's atrocities.

 

"I did not say they will be cut into pieces, how [could] I say that? I am not [a] criminal or gangster to say something like this," al-Hasan said.

 

"But I did say to them that they should go and visit the mass graves of Saddam before they come to court," he told Aljazeera. 

Al-Hasan did make several statements that Saddam Hussein must be executed.

"He should be executed, it is the best choice for the Iraqi people," he told the Iraqi news website, Karbalanews.net.

 

Public threats

 

Friday sermons in most of Iraq's Shia mosques generated great anger towards Saddam's defence team.

 

Backed by Iran, the Shia Muslim community in Iraq hold Saddam Hussein and the Baath party responsible for blocking the Shia's rise to power in the second half of the 20th century.

Al-Hasan (R) believes Saddam
should be executed 

Shaikh Raid al-Kadhimi, a senior preacher among Iraq's Shia, warned the lawyers, whom he described as "mercenary lawyers", against coming to Iraq.

 

"I advise the monkeys, those mercenary lawyers, who wish to defend Saddam, not to come to Iraq because Iraqis will be ready to deal with them," he said from the pulpit of Baghdad's Kadhimiyah Shrine.

 

"We demand the execution of Saddam Hussein and we think we represent the opinion of al-Sadr's supporters and most Iraqis," said Shaikh Awad Khafaji, a chief aide of Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr, during his Friday sermon in a Shia district of Baghdad.

 

Growing team

The Saddam defence team acquired a new member on Saturday, when a daughter of Libyan leader Muammar al-Qadhafi joined the group.

"We will sleep in the mosque, we will be in the protection of God, if they want to kill us let them do it in the home of God"

Muhammad al-Rashdan, Saddam defence team chief

"Aisha Qadhafi, who holds a doctorate in law, has called us offering to join the team, and we welcomed that. She is now a member of the defence panel for the Iraqi president," al-Rashdan said on Saturday.

The team already includes prominent legal specialists from Jordan, Iraq, France and Britain.

The team was formed on 14 December 2003, one day after  Saddam Hussein was captured by US occupation forces in al-Dawr in central Iraq.