Defense Attorney Problems at the Anfal Trial — and Other Saddam News

by Kevin Jon Heller

Mohammad Al-Oraibi, the presiding judge at the Anfal trial, has ordered the arrest of one of the defense attorneys, Badie Arif Ezzat, for criminal contempt of court. The charges stem from Ezzat’s criticism of the Dujail trial on Iraqi television, which Judge Al-Oraibi apparently believed was directed at the Anfal trial. Ezzat could face seven years imprisonment if convicted.

Interestingly, the U.S. seems to have openly taken Ezzat’s side in the dispute:

The Sunday session of the trial of six Saddam Hussein officials accused of crimes against humanity was canceled after a defense lawyer — held in contempt and ejected from the trial last week — made an unexpected appearance in the courtroom, court officials told The Associated Press.

When he asked bailiffs why Badie Arif Ezzat was back in his courtroom, Judge Mohammed Oreibi al-Khalifa was told that the lawyer was there on the order of U.S. officials attached to the court in an advisory capacity, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, because they were not authorized to release the information.

“So, does my decision mean nothing?” an angry al-Khalifa responded, alluding to his decision to eject and hold Ezzat in contempt last week. The two had a heated exchange over comments Ezzat made in a television interview. The judge said the remarks were an insult to the court.

Al-Khalifa adjourned the trial until March 26.

The court officials said the U.S. officials later argued with al-Khalifa that Ezzat could not be held in contempt on the strength of comments made in a television interview and should be allowed to resume his duties.


They said the U.S. officials took custody of Ezzat from Iraqi authorities over the weekend, keeping him under protection in a residence located inside the Green Zone, the heavily fortified Baghdad region that houses the American Embassy and offices of the Iraqi government and parliament.

I have no idea why the unnamed U.S. officials were willing to risk alienating the IHT by defending Ezzat. And I’m not sure where they got the idea that they could “order” Ezzat to be allowed to return to the courtroom. Nevertheless, kudos to them for standing up to the IHT’s bullying.

In other Saddam news:

  • It’s looking increasingly likely that the presiding judge at the Anfal trial, Raouf Abdel-Rahman, is seeking asylum in Britain out of fear that he will be killed if he returns to Iraq.
  • Taha Yassin Ramadan, Saddam’s VP, was executed on Tuesday. True to form, the IHT did not bother to wait for his appeal to become final (as I have explained regarding the other executions here). Then again, the IHT executed Ramadan despite the fact that the Cassation Panel increased his original life sentence without bothering to explain why, so we shouldn’t be particularly surprised.
  • The Iraqi government is thinking about joining the ICC. While that would be a welcome development, it is highly unlikely as long as U.S. soldiers remain in the county — the last time Iraq threatened to join the ICC, the U.S. quickly convinced it to change its mind.

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