Closing arguments began today in the trial of Saddam Hussein and six other regime officials, where the defendants face 148 counts of murder and other assorted crimes for the Dujail wipeout. Only one defendant and attorney attended the session, as the rest boycotted over supposed security concerns, including Saddam himself:
The defense began closing arguments in the trial of Saddam Hussein on Monday, but most of the lawyers boycotted the court because of the slaying last month of an attorney for the former Iraqi leader. …
The lawyers for Saddam and three of his top co-defendants were not present, and one of them told The Associated Press that they were boycotting the court until better security was put in place and other demands were met.
“Everyone is afraid,” Najib al-Nueimi said from Qatar. “We will not attend until our conditions are met.”
He said that besides better security, the defense wanted the trial adjourned to allow them time to prepare their final arguments, saying al-Obeidi’s death and security fears had distracted them from the case.
The lawyers have some reason for concern, obviously, but it seems a little late to request further adjournments and delays. They have already completed the evidence phases; the attorneys have only to deliver closing arguments and summations, a process that should follow naturally enough from the evidence phases. Besides, the attorneys did not get assigned to defend one of the most repugnant dictators of the last half-century against their will. They jumped at the chance, and should have understood the risks involved.
Iraqis have waited long enough to see justice prevail over their former oppressors. Judge Abdel Rahman has done a marvelous job in keeping the circus to a dull roar and ensuring that the focus stays on the real victims of Dujail and Iraq as a whole. Despite this publicity stunt and attempt to hold the court hostage, it looks like Abdel Rahman will order the trial to proceed with or without closing arguments from the defendants and their legal team. That’s the right call. The days when Saddam could hijack justice and manipulate the organs of the Iraqi government to his will died in a spider hole in December 2003, even if Saddam himself did not.