Saddam Hussein's lawyer blamed U.S.-led "occupation forces" Wednesday for the slaying of a second colleague in the trial and urged Arab leaders to "shoulder their responsibility" to combat disorder here that threatens the proceeding.
Khalil al-Dulaimi, head of Saddam's legal team, spoke one day after Adel al-Zubeidi, lawyer for former Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan died in a hail of gunfire in west Baghdad. Thamir al-Khuzaie, attorney for another co-defendant, Saddam's half brother Barazan Ibrahim, was wounded.
Another defense lawyer, Saadoun al-Janabi, was found shot dead the day after the trial began on Oct. 19. The assassinations raise doubts about Iraq's ability to try the case, although the Iraqi government dismissed calls to move the venue or halt the trial, which resumes Nov. 28.
Al-Dulaimi, speaking in the insurgent hotspot of Ramadi, brushed aside government suggestions that pro-Saddam insurgents or religious extremists were behind the killings.
"The occupation forces are responsible for this criminal incident, and they bear the responsibility of preserving the lives of the people regardless of their identity," he said. The "Iraqi government also has the responsibility to protect people and put an end to such actions."
He called on "all free people, the United Nations, the Arab League, Arab presidents and kings and the Arab Bar Association to shoulder the responsibility to face the tyranny of the criminal gangs that are targeting the country."
President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd and longtime Saddam opponent, also condemned the assassination and urged the rest of the defense team to accept government protection which they had refused.
Regardless of who was responsible, the killing of another defense lawyer reinforced grave misgivings among human rights groups and international lawyers about holding the trial in a country gripped by a brutal insurgency — much of it led by the defendants' supporters in the Sunni Arab minority.
"I don't understand how you can have a fair trial in this atmosphere of insecurity, with bombs going off," said Richard Goldstone, the first prosecutor at the U.N. tribunal for war crimes in the former Yugoslavia and one of the world's most prominent jurists.
He told The Associated Press by telephone that Iraq's government should consider shifting the trial to an Arab country "where there is security."