Published December 19, 2004
AMMAN, Jordan – From his prison cell, ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein (search) urged his compatriots to remain united against the U.S. occupation and warned of the potential dangers of the upcoming elections, his lawyers said Sunday.
Iraqi lawyer Khalil al-Duleimi met with Saddam on Thursday, the first meeting since Saddam was captured a year ago.
"Our representative in Iraq told us that the president warned the people of Iraq and the Arabs to beware of the American scheme aimed at splitting Iraq into sectarian and religious divisions and weakening the (Arab) nation," said Bushra Khalil, a Lebanese member of the defense team.
"The president sent recommendations to the Iraqi people to remain united and not fall in the trap of America's slogans," she said. "He said Kurds, Arabs, Shiites, Sunnis and Christians are all Iraqis who all have to stand united against the American plot."
Al-Duleimi said the deposed leader was in good health and his morale was high, according to Ziad al-Khasawneh, who heads Saddam's legal team.
Al-Duleimi came to Jordan late Saturday to brief the legal team on "the very fruitful 41/2 hour meeting with President Saddam," al-Khasawneh said.
Saddam is kept in a 3-by-5-meter cell "which lacks any information medium or connection with the outside world," al-Khasawneh told reporters. Al-Duleimi told the lawyers that Saddam did not see anyone except his guards and the ICRC representatives who have visited him four times since his capture.
Al-Duleimi said he was taken to the meeting with Saddam in an armored vehicle with darkened windows and did not know where in Baghdad Saddam was being held. The meeting took place in the presence of an American military official.
Al-Duleimi did not appear in the press conference attended by nine of the 20 lead lawyers as he had returned to Baghdad earlier Sunday.
He told the other lawyers that Saddam had no news of Iraq or the outside world before the meeting. When al-Duleimi informed Saddam of Iraq's upcoming elections, he urged caution.
"President Saddam recommended to the Iraqi people to be careful of this election, which will lead to dividing the Iraqi people and their land," said al-Khasawneh.
When he heard aircraft flying over his detention location, Saddam said: "These are probably going to Fallujah. I live with their pain."
Before meeting Saddam, al-Duleimi was asked by U.S. detaining authorities "not to shake hands and not to have any physical contact with the president, but he refused and he saluted him as the President of Iraq, which pleased him," said Issam al-Ghazzawi, another team member.
Saddam's first words included a popular Iraqi saying: "If you are not a head, don't be anything else because that would make you a tail," underlining that he intends to remain Iraq's leader. He also recited a verse from the Quran, Islam's holy book: "Don't be weak, don't grieve, for you are the best," al-Khasawneh said.
He said Saddam asked al-Duleimi about "the situation of the Iraqi people, the Arab nation — governments and people — especially the Palestinians." The fallen dictator praised the "stances" of France and Germany and welcomed Spain's troop withdrawal from Iraq, according to al-Khasawneh.
Al-Khasawneh said Saddam signed an affidavit officially appointing the lawyers as his defense team. The team had been appointed earlier by Saddam's wife, Sajida.
He said Saddam suggested a name for his legal team: "The committee in support and defense of all Arab and Iraqi captives."
Saddam also sent his greetings to the other detained members of his toppled leadership, saying he has had no contact with them, al-Khasawneh said.
Saddam and 11 other defendants, all former members of the ousted Iraqi regime, face charges of war crimes and genocide.
On Saturday, Ali Hassan al-Majid, the former general known as "Chemical Ali," and Saddam's last defense minister, Sultan Hashim Ahmad, appeared in the first in a series of interrogatory hearings held to gather evidence for eventual trials of Iraq's one-time Baathist leaders.
Interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi said Tuesday that the 11 detained Saddam regime figures, plus the deposed dictator himself, would start appearing before court in the coming week — moving forward with the trials ahead of the Jan. 30 national elections.