His days begin by slipping on one of seven polyester suits, grabbing a breakfast of bread and chai and jumping into his dented 14-year-old Mercedes. Fuaad Ahmed al-Jawary, attorney at law is off to dent another government case.

His client list is packed with accused killers, kidnappers, con artists and thieves, men caught driving around with rocket-propelled grenades and others charged with attacking American soldiers.

His work is going to court and mincing the government’s cases.

Fuaad Ahmed al-Jawary, attorney at law, has become the Johnnie Cochran of the insurgency, and as the resistance continues, his criminal defense practice has soared.

On a recent day, Mr. Jawary, a 40-year-old, 5-foot-7 dynamo with slicked-back hair and bright coffee-bean eyes, rushed into a Baghdad murder trial. He had two clients, a man in a bright orange jumpsuit with new-looking glasses and a 19-year-old woman whose chest heaved under her cloak.

The judge began grilling a witness.

“Where were you on Feb. 14?” — the day of the murder — the judge asked. “Did you see men with guns?”

After two more witnesses testified, Mr. Jawary jumped to his feet.

“Your pardon, sir,” Mr. Jawary said. “These people didn’t see everything. Can I bring more witnesses?”

A prosecutor ruffled a sheaf of papers. A clerk leaned over a giant ledger. The judge cast a long, hard look at Mr. Jawary and rapped his fingers on his desk.

It might be hard to imagine that in a place where bombs keep blowing up and raw sewage splashes in the streets there would be a functioning legal system, complete with subpoenas, autopsies, objections, search warrants, evidence reports and public defenders.

But there is, and American officials are increasingly turning to the Iraqi courts to prosecute suspects still being held in Abu Ghraib and other prisons.

Hundreds of detainees are being shuffled from American custody into one of the three tiers of the Iraqi criminal justice system: a special tribunal for Saddam Hussein and high-ranking Baath Party members; a new national criminal court for terrorism suspects; and local courts for run-of-the-mill crimes. American officials said that right now, of about 2,300 inmates at Abu Ghraib, 580 had been scheduled for prosecution in Iraqi courts.

Each defendant is allowed a defense lawyer, which is where Mr. Jawary energetically steps in.

His ethos: “Every man is born innocent.”

Mr. Jawary’s clients used to come straight from Baghdad’s underworld of drug-running gangs and counterfeit rings and thugs who slipped razor blades under their tongues and slashed their way through the city’s slums. A few years back, he said, he represented a woman who had drugged her husband so her lover could crawl through a window and shoot him in the head.

But the American occupation, and the violent resistance to it, changed all that. Mr. Jawary’s bulging caseload now includes people like a student charged with shooting at American soldiers, a man caught driving with rocket-propelled grenades, a sheik’s son accused of stealing a government generator for his father’s ice factory and a merchant charged with bumping off a police captain.

To Mr. Jawary these clients are not necessarily insurgents.

“I try to take cases only where there is some doubt,” he said.

He is rewarded handsomely — $5,000 for murder cases, up front, preferably in crisp greenbacks, and smaller fees for others. Sometimes he is paid in kind, with stereos, air-conditioners, watches, rings, sheep, even once a pair of Volkswagens.

The Iraqi court system is a French-inspired inquisitorial process in which lawyers can raise objections, though they traditionally play a smaller role than those in an American-style trial. In Iraq there are no juries, just a panel of three judges. There is a right to remain silent, but few suspects exercise it.

“Iraqis have such big mouths,” Mr. Jawary said.


Iraq has a strong legal tradition, going back 3,800 years to Hammurabi’s code. Even during the darkest hours of Mr. Hussein’s rule, judges maintained some independence and were enough of a burr in Mr. Hussein’s side that he formed his own special courts to punish political enemies. One result, after Mr. Hussein was toppled and his special courts disbanded, was a legal system that actually worked.

To be sure, it is still pretty low tech. “The rest of the world stopped using this 20 years ago,” said another judge, Zuhair al-Maliky, holding up a piece of well-worn carbon paper.

It was also rife with corruption.

“Bribes, bribes, bribes, it still happens,” Mr. Jawary said. “The only difference today is it’s in dollars, not dinars.”

When asked if he ever slipped anyone a bribe, Mr. Jawary shook his head. “Not bribes.” He smiled. “Gifts.”

After Sadr City, Mr. Jawary rushed over to the Central Criminal Court of Iraq, which American legal advisers helped establish last summer in a former Baghdad museum. Unlike the musky, smoky, rowdy confines of the local courts, the new criminal court hums with the decorum and supreme hush of a library or a mosque.