BAGHDAD, Iraq – The lawyer for one of Saddam Hussein’s co-defendants on trial for the Dujail mass slayings was found dead with a gunshot wound to the head and his body dumped near a Sunni mosque in the capital, Iraqi authorities said Friday.

Saadoun al-Janabi, the attorney for the former head of Hussein’s Revolutionary Court Awad Hamed al-Bandar, was kidnapped Thursday evening when gunmen barged into his office, just one day after he sat in court for the first day of the trial for al-Bandar, Saddam and six of their co-defendants.

Al-Janabi’s killing had immediate ramifications as one of the defense attorneys working on the trial said he and his colleagues would refuse to take part in the proceedings until they are provided guards paid for by the Iraqi government.

“Our demand is to have security protection for us,” said Majeed Hedab Halhoul, an attorney for former Vice President Taha Ramadan and the former president’s half-brother, Barzan Ibrahim al-Hassan. “We want to choose the guards from people we know, because we do not trust the Iraqi government. The government should give them weapon passes and pay their salaries. We’re going to keep boycotting until they meet our demands.”

Halhoul also said the defense lawyers want the trial to be moved out of Iraq, a concession that the Iraqi government is highly unlikely to make. Saddam and the seven other former high-ranking Baathist regime members are on trial for a massacre in the Shiite town of Dujail in 1982 that left 148 dead. They all could face the death penalty if convicted.

Laith Kubba, a spokesman for Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, condemned the killing but made no mention of increasing security for the defense attorneys. He told The Associated Press that it was unclear whether the killing was an effort to derail the trial or the settling of a personal vendetta.

“The government exerts its best efforts to provide security for all people and all those involved in the trial, but we cannot provide total security because of the violence in the country,” he said.

Richard Dicker, a trial observer and director of the international justice program of Human Rights Watch, called on the Iraqi government and tribunal officials to immediately provide security for the defense attorneys.

“We are gravely concerned that this killing will have a chilling effect on the willingness of competent lawyers to vigorously defend the accused in these cases,” Dicker said. “Such an outcome will seriously undermine the ability of the court to provide a fair trial.”

Prosecutors and judges involved in Saddam’s trial receive protection from the Iraqi Special Tribunal, but such protection has not been offered to the 12 defense attorneys, who are working for the former dictator and his fellow defendants.

Five judges are involved in trying the case, but only photographs and video of the presiding judge were allowed to be taken on the opening day of a trial that was closely followed throughout the Arab world. All 12 of the defense attorneys as well as the lead prosecutor, however, were shown on camera.

Halhoul said he twice made requests to the tribunal for security to be provided to the defense team – once before the trial and a second time with a written request that was handed to the presiding judge before the start of proceedings Wednesday.

No one has claimed responsibility for the killing.

Halhoul said that al-Janabi’s office staff said the gunmen arrived at the lawyer’s office in pickup trucks similar to the ones used by government security forces. Witnesses in the area and Halhoul said the gunmen announced they were from the Interior Ministry when they entered the office to drag away al-Janabi.

The body was found in an open area behind a garage near the Sunni Al-Ferdos Mosque in the Ur District, a mostly Shiite enclave in the northeastern part of the capital near Sadr City. The Mahdi Army, a Shiite militia loyal to the radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, controls much of Ur district as well as the densely populated slums of Sadr City.

Residents around the al-Ferdos mosque said that over the past few months fewer Sunni faithful have been praying at the mosque because they fear the Mahdi Army and Iraqi Security Force officers patrolling the area who might be loyal to the militia.

Al-Janabi’s body was discovered late Thursday, soon after residents in the area heard gunshots and police came to the area. Raed Sattar, a guard at the garage, said it is not unusual for bodies to be dumped nearby. “I called the police, and they came and took the body,” Sattar said. “I didn’t know who this man was until later.”

In a separate development, the U.S. military announced Friday that four U.S. service members were killed in fighting a day earlier.

Three Marines were killed when their vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb near the town of Nasser Wa Salaam, about 25 miles west of the capital. Marines in their convoy killed two suspected terrorists and detained four others believed to be involved in the attack, according to the U.S. military.

In a separate incident Thursday, an American soldier attached to a Marine unit in western Iraq was killed by indirect fire in the town of Hit. At least 1,988 members of the U.S. military have died in Iraq since the invasion in March 2003, according to an AP count.


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