Clark: Defense Team Will Meet With Saddam Sunday

Saddam Hussein's lawyers will be allowed to meet with the former Iraqi president Sunday for the first time in nearly a month, defense team member Ramsey Clark said Thursday.

Clark, a former U.S. attorney general, told reporters the court had refused to allow visits since late January, when chief judge Raouf Abdel-Rahman took over.

Clark said he also was told "the court was going to permit defense counsel to come back in" when Saddam's trial resumes Tuesday. However, he left unclear whether the lawyers would continue to boycott the trial in an effort to have the judge replaced.

"We never thought we couldn't come back in," Clark said. "The fundamental right to counsel is the right to counsel of choice, not to somebody else's choice."

The defendants, who also include Saddam's former intelligence chief and half brother Barzan Ibrahim, refused to attend sessions held Feb. 1 and 2 after the defense team walked out of court. The defense lawyers have refused to participate in the trial until Abdel-Rahman is removed, accusing him of bias and hostility against Saddam.

The judge appointed new defense lawyers, but Saddam and other defendants have refused to accept them.

The defense team filed a motion this week to disqualify the judge. They are hoping to get a decision, "and if we do we'll go back in," Clark said.

He will not attend Sunday's meeting because, he said, word came too late. Clark has had between 15 and 20 contacts with Saddam, including some over closed-circuit television, and said he has been able to sit down with Saddam at length twice.

"He seemed at peace with himself," Clark said. "He realizes the danger. He may be fatalistic about the outcome, but he's certainly unbowed and maybe when he gets into court he gets ... more emotional than he does among his lawyers."

Saddam's chief lawyer, Khalil al-Dulaimi, will attend the meeting Sunday, Clark said.

If convicted in the killing of nearly 150 Shiites from Dujail after a July 1982 assassination attempt against him, Saddam and his seven co-defendants could face death by hanging.