Lawyer says Saddam tortured

A Jordanian lawyer who claims he represents Saddam Hussein said he believes the ousted Iraqi leader was subjected to torture, although a copy of a letter reportedly sent to his daughters seems to show the ex-president in good spirits.

Mohammed Rashdan said he had a copy of a January 21 report by the International Committee of the Red Cross that said the detainee's health was good but that he was "slightly wounded." It gave no details on the injury.

"This is blatant proof that the Iraqi president was subjected to physical and moral torture and violence," said Rashdan, who says Saddam's wife appointed him as lawyer shortly after the ex-leader's December 13 capture.

Rashdan provided The Associated Press with a copy of an ICRC form he said was filled out when the group visited Saddam. It listed his full name, date of birth and his health condition.

The ICRC has visited Saddam at least twice since January, once in late February and once in late April. A spokesman for the group's Iraq delegation in Jordan could not confirm a meeting with Saddam on January 21.

Rashdan also gave the AP a copy of an undated letter carried by the ICRC from Saddam to his daughter, Raghad, who lives in Amman with her sister, Rana.

Several paragraphs of the letter were censored out with black ink, leaving just a brief message.

"In the name of the Almighty and Merciful God ... to my small family, to my big family," the letter said. "As for my spirit and morals, they are glittering with the blessing of God the creator and the great."

Raghad and Rana, who have lived in seclusion in Jordan since leaving their country in July, could not be reached for comment.

The ICRC said it gave the daughters a letter from Saddam after a February 21 meeting, and received another from him after their April 27 meeting. ICRC rules limit prisoners to discussing only personal matters in their correspondence, and the letters from Saddam go through a US censor.

Saddam has been held in an undisclosed location since his capture.

Rashdan, who has repeatedly complained about not being allowed to meet his client, on Wednesday sent a request to US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Rashdan, who was affiliated to the Baath party, had been assigned by the former Iraqi regime to represent the government in several cases. His team includes Washington lawyer Curtis Doebbler and French lawyer Emmanuel Ludot.

It is not clear whether Rashdan's claim to represent Saddam would be accepted by the US-led coalition that toppled and captured Saddam or the Iraqi tribunal preparing to try him for war crimes.

US officials have said they will turn Saddam over to an Iraqi court set up to try him and other leaders of the former government. In April, that tribunal appointed judges and prosecutors.

No trial date has been set, and no charges have been filed.

[Source: The Associated Press, Amman Jordan, 09Jun04]

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