Chief Lawyer: Violence Will Increase in Iraq if Saddam Sentenced to Death

Saddam Hussein's chief lawyer warned Sunday of worsening violence in Iraq and chaos across the Mideast if the ex-president is sentenced to death at his trial for a crackdown on a Shiite Muslim village in the 1980s.

Khalil al-Dulaimi also said he would break a monthlong boycott and attend proceedings Monday when Saddam's second trial resumes on separate charges of genocide against the Kurds.

A verdict in Saddam's first trial is expected Nov. 5. He and seven others are charged with crimes against humanity in connection with the killing of 148 Shiites from Dujail after a 1982 assassination attempt against him.

Conviction carries a maximum penalty of death by hanging, but can be appealed to a higher court.

Al-Dulaimi told The Associated Press in Jordan that he warned of a civil war in Iraq in a letter sent recently to President Bush.

"I warned him against the death penalty and against any other decision that would inflame a civil war in Iraq and send fire throughout the region," al-Dulaimi said in a telephone interview from Baghdad. He did not say when he sent the letter to Bush.

"Any foolish American decision will further complicate things and will pose a serious threat to U.S. interests in the region," al-Dulaimi said.

He also claimed the offices of Saddam's defense team in the U.S.-controlled Green Zone of Baghdad were ransacked over a week ago and said more than 1,400 pages of trial documents were damaged.

He said the defense team was reviewing the documents, which were provided by the Iraqi court trying Saddam and his co-defendants in the current trial stemming from the 1987-88 Operation Anfal offensive against separatist Kurds in northern Iraq.

"Some 1,450 pages were blackened and we believe that the prosecution was behind this," al-Dulaimi said. He said he would lodge a complaint against the prosecution and demand an investigation into the incident.

He could not explain how the documents were blackened or damaged.

Badee Izzat Aref, a lawyer for one of Saddam's co-defendants, also said the lawyers' offices had been ransacked. He said there was no sign of a break-in.

Chief prosecutor Jaafar al-Mousawi said al-Dulaimi's claims were "baseless and show the inability of the defense team in defending their clients."

Al-Mousawi said the defense team's offices are at an American military camp inside the Green Zone and insisted "no one can do such things."

"They want to offend the court by this, but they are only offending their clients," al-Mousawi said.

Prosecutors in the Operation Anfal trial allege that 180,000 people were killed during the campaign against Kurds.

Al-Dulaimi said he would return to those proceedings when they reopen Monday in Baghdad to present the chief judge with defense requests, including allowing non-Iraqi lawyers to attend the hearings without prior permission from the court.

"Depending on the response from the chief judge, the defense team will decide whether to attend the hearings or continue its boycott," he said.

The defense team began boycotting the trial Sept. 24 after the dismissal of the chief judge, who had been criticized as being too soft on Saddam.

The lawyers said later they also were protesting the five-judge court's refusal to give them more time to review some 10,000 documents in the Anfal trial.