Saddam's Lawyer Challenges Court Jurisdiction

Saddam Hussein's (search) Iraqi lawyer has filed petitions challenging the date of the former leader's trial and the jurisdiction of the Special Iraqi Tribunal (search) — a last ditch effort to block the Oct. 19 start of court proceedings.

Saddam and seven other members of his toppled regime are to stand trial on charges of ordering a massacre of 143 people in Dujail, a town north of Baghdad (search)(search), in 1982 after a failed assassination attempt against the ousted leader. If convicted, Saddam could be sentenced to death.

Abdel Haq Alani, a Britain-based legal consultant for one of Saddam's daughters, said Sunday that the former leader's Iraqi lawyer, Khalil Dulaimi (search), has been served a written notification from the special court designating Oct. 19 as the starting date.

"Mr. Dulaimi received the notice on Sept. 25," Alani told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

Additionally, Dulaimi was also "handed some documents, said to be pertinent to the alleged evidence to be presented in court," Alani added.

It was not immediately possible to reach Dulaimi in the Iraqi capital.

Alani said it "has not yet been decided whether the defense team would appear in court on Oct. 19." He declined to elaborate, but appeared to suggest that the defense team was awaiting an Iraqi response to two petitions which Dulaimi has recently filed in Baghdad.

One of the petitions "challenges the date of the trial because the court should not expect to give us only two weeks to review the case and the documents, while it took it two years to do so," Alani said.

"There should be at least 45 days between the notification and the date of the trial," he said. "This is a procedural matter; This is the least that could be done for a fair trial."

The other motion was filed to challenge the jurisdiction of the Iraqi Special Tribunal, Alani said. But he declined to say where and when it was filed or explain on what basis the defense questioned the legitimacy of the court.