Saddam May Be on Hunger Strike

A French lawyer representing Saddam Hussein asked Monday for the International Red Cross to look into reports that the jailed former Iraqi leader has begun a hunger strike.

Emmanuel Ludot (search), a lawyer in the eastern French city of Reims, said it was not immediately clear whether Saddam, who is currently in U.S. and Iraqi custody, might have stopped eating to protest his detention.

"We have information coming from Iraq that gives the impression that he has in fact decided with 11 of his comrades to stop eating, but we have American denials," Ludot said by telephone.

"As a result, I have asked the International Red Cross to send urgently Western medical experts to file an independent report on the current situation and to see if Mr. Saddam is on a hunger strike or not — and what the motives are," Ludot said.

Ludot said another attorney on Saddam's defense team had told him of the prospect that Saddam might be on a hunger strike. Ludot said he is to meet Wednesday with officials from the International Committee of the Red Cross (search) in Geneva, Switzerland, on the matter.

"The Red Cross cannot do otherwise than to send experts given the gravity of the situation," Ludot said.

In the letter, Ludot wrote: "You are not ignorant of the disquieting health conditions of our clients at the present time prisoners by the American authorities."

A copy was provided to The Associated Press. The defense team represents Saddam and three other detainees, he said.

On Sunday, a lawyer appointed by the family of detained former Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz (search) said some detainees had begun a hunger strike to protest their detention. A U.S. military official confirmed that some were rejecting their main meals but continuing to snack on military rations.

The Red Cross regularly visits Saddam and passes him letters from his family. He gets out of his cell — 12-foot-by-15-foot — twice a day for recreation, Iraqi officials have said.

Saddam's Jordan-based legal team, made up of 20 lawyers, says his detention is a violation of international protocols, and has called for his immediate release. He has not met with any of the lawyers who claim to represent him.