Transcript: Can Saddam Hussein Get a Fair Trial?

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This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, March 29, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.


JACQUES VERGE, SADDAM HUSSEIN'S LAWYER (through translator): I don't think a trial is possible without the indictment of the Americans. And in that case, the temptation would be strong to wish for the death of Saddam Hussein.


JOHN GIBSON, HOST: French lawyer Jacques Verges (search) explaining his decision to represent Saddam Hussein. He has defended Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie (search), the Butcher of Lyon, now he wants to defend the Butcher of Baghdad.

Attorney Frank Rubino (search) defended Panama dictator Manuel Noriega (search). Mr. Rubino, today's big question, can a former dictator like Saddam Hussein get a fair trial?

FRANK RUBINO, MANUEL NORIEGA'S ATTORNEY: Well, obviously he can't get a fair trial in Iraq. He can't get a fair trial with an Iraqi jury. And he surely can't get a fair trial with an Iraqi judge.

GIBSON: Well, Frank — first of all, isn't it true, though, that is where he is going to be tried. I mean, somebody is going to have to try to make it fair.

RUBINO: Well, I think if I were representing him, the first thing I would do is attempt to have it moved to the World Court at the Hague, which I think would be a better venue for this type of trial.

GIBSON: Simply because the Europeans are much more sympathetic to Saddam Hussein? They want to see him stay in power? They didn't want him overthrown? They oppose the Americans?

RUBINO: Well, that, but also because you won't carry the prejudice that an Iraqi jury or judge would give him. Remember, he's charged with crimes against the Iraqi people.


RUBINO: So to be judged by the Iraqi people is the victim judging the criminal.

GIBSON: Well, but Mr. Rubino, honestly now, it's the Iraqi people who were aggrieved by Saddam Hussein. You're saying they don't have a right to put him on trial?

RUBINO: No. They have a right to put him on trial, but in a forum where he will get a fair trial. What good is a trial if it's not a fair trial?

GIBSON: Right. I don't think the Iraqi people, or at least the nascent government wants to have an unfair trial. This is the first kind of official act of the new Iraqi state. But, on the other hand, why deliver him to a world court in The Hague where they might just out of orneriness and opposition to the war acquit him?

RUBINO: Well, deliver him there so it could be said that he was tried by an international tribunal and then if acquitted or convicted it would be a summation of various countries.

GIBSON: But Mr. Rubino, if you were on the other side, I would expect you to be arguing that delivering him to a court which argued that he ought to have maintained control of the very people he abused for 30 years is insane. Why give those people the right to make a judgment him when as far as they were concerned he should still be in charge of Iraq?

RUBINO: The real question is would the trial be in Iraq? Would it be a jury? Would it be a judge? Would it be a tribunal? Where would the tribunal come from? There is more questions yet to be answered that no one really knows the answer to and how this will come about.

GIBSON: Let me ask you something else. Mr. Verges, who you probably, if you don't know actually you know him by reputation.

RUBINO: I know of him. And I met him on one occasion.

GIBSON: His clients include some very notorious fellows, like Klaus Barbie. Should people who think Saddam Hussein was an evil guy and ought to be convicted, should they take some heart in the fact that all of Jacques Verges' famous clients like Klaus Barbie are guilty and are in prison and were not acquitted?

RUBINO: I must concede, he was the perfect choice for Saddam Hussein. Number one, he's French. Number two, he hates Americans. And number three, he's a former communist. So he would be the type of person that Saddam Hussein would choose to be his champion for his cause.

GIBSON: Right. And number three, he's not terribly successful at keeping his clients out of jail.

RUBINO: Which should please the prosecution.

GIBSON: Yes, which should please the prosecution. Nonetheless, Mr. Rubino, I know that you defended Mr. Noriega and he is in jail. He is convicted. But can you imagine a situation in which a jury acquitted Saddam Hussein and the world accepted it?

RUBINO: Well, then the prosecution didn't do a very good job if that happened, because if he is acquitted at a trial, it will be because the right evidence wasn't put on or presented in the correct way.

GIBSON: You, like me, go into this assuming he's guilty?

RUBINO: Well, I must admit the pressures against him. And that's one of the things that there's going to be a problem with his trial in order to make it be fair. What good is a conviction if it's not a fair conviction? If I were the United States whose backing this trial, I'd want a fair conviction.

GIBSON: All right, attorney Frank Rubino. He defended Manuel Noriega, has some experience in this area. Mr. Rubino, thank you very much. Appreciate you coming on.

RUBINO: Thank you.

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