Saddam trial in Europe, lawyer urges

A lawyer for Saddam Hussein has said that any trial against the ousted Iraqi president should be held in Europe.

    The former Iraqi President will face at least 14 charges in court

    London-based attorney Giovanni di Stefano told Swedish television network SVT on Sunday that Hussein's defence team would like to see the trial in Sweden, Austria, Switzerland or The Hague, Netherlands.

    "I would favour Sweden, more than any other country, where we are likely ... to obtain a fair trial," di Stefano said, adding that "it's not safe" in Iraq.

    "In the unlikely event that our client is tried and convicted, he can go straight to a detention centre in Sweden."

    The Swedish Foreign Ministry had no comment late on Sunday.

    Iraqi officials said this week the ousted leader could appear before a special tribunal within two months, but have since backtracked.

    Iraqi authorities have also said the former president will face 14 documented cases relating to alleged crimes committed during his 23-year rule. Many carry the death penalty.

    Di Stefano added that the team would argue that his client was immune to prosecution under the Iraqi constitution.

    No death penalty

    "The constitution of Iraq was deposited with the United Nations in 1969. It was accepted and it was ratified and to this day it has not been altered," di Stefano said. "We avail ourselves to sovereign immunity, end of story."

    The Iraqi government has not
    ruled out the death penalty 

    He also suggested that the defence team had received guarantees that Hussein would not face the death penalty.

    "The Americans, the British, the Italians will not allow that, they will not allow the death penalty to be imposed, and the president of Iraq has confirmed to us he will be signing no warrant of execution as would be required under Iraqi law."

    Iraqi government position

    No member of the Iraqi government has publicly ruled out the death sentence.

    Di Stefano said last year that Hussein should be released from custody and allowed to live in exile in Sweden, Austria or Switzerland.

    US forces captured Hussein in December 2003. They said he was hiding in a concealed hole near his hometown of Tikrit, north of Baghdad.

    He is jailed at a US military-run prison complex near Baghdad airport, which holds 110 high-profile detainees.

    Charges against the former president include killing rival politicians, gassing Kurds, invading Kuwait and suppressing Kurdish and Shia uprisings in 1991.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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