Law and Rockets

An American lawyer is sent to Iraq to manage the office of a German law firm. What could possibly go wrong ?

When the Men Came to Kill me

When the men came to kill me on Monday I was thinking about the court hearing and what I would do. The Friday before they had followed my car home from work to learn where I lived. Over the weekend they discussed the details: where to wait, what to do if I fought back. They counted on surprise and figured that I would die in my own doorway.

I knew none of these things. All I knew is that my client had been arrested by the U.S. Army in Panama and that the Acting U.S. Attorney had cut short a New Year's Eve party because he had heard that General Noriega was being taken to Miami International. General Noriega wasn’t on my client’s plane. He had been arrested in Panama during the invasion. The government wanted my client held without bond. For ten days he waited in jail for a hearing.The Acting U.S. Attorney was disappointed that he had missed a photo opportunity and the rest of his New Year’s Eve party.

On January 11, 1990 I came out of the house carrying a mobile phone, pleadings and a court file. At the last minute the men decided only one would strike; he waited in the bushes next to the house, a nylon stocking over his head. As I closed the door my gaze fell towards these bushes; they were moving. I thought that there might be an animal dying inside them.

There was a scream from the man who came from the bushes with a hammer held high. I put my hand up but I wasn't quick enough. The phone fell and he struck me on the head. Blood fell onto the pleadings already on the ground. I picked up a glass bottle on the floor next to the door and swung at him.

He hadn't expected any resistance; this was not part of the plan. He ran away towards U.S. 1. A reporter passing by the house saw me and called 911; when the ambulance came I was bleeding from a head wound onto my shirt. They bandaged my head as I stood; Rescue wanted to take me to the Emergency Room but I insisted on going to the courthouse.

After all, my client needed me.

Michael O’Kane is an expat American lawyer and the author of:

  • Law and Rockets
  • Doing Business in Myanmar
  • Iraqi Labor Law
  • Doing Business in Saudi Arabia
  • Saudi Real Estate Law and Practice
  • Saudi Arabia Labor Law Outline
  • Cómo defender un proceso penal oral

He was the last lawyer to be admitted to practice in the Panama Canal Zone and the first lawyer to try a jury case in the Family Division of the Miami-Dade County circuit court. He worked on the so-called “British Bombers” terrorism cases in Saudi Arabia and since then has practiced primarily in the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

The Saudi law library project was abandoned by SAGIA, the Saudi Arabia General Investment Authority. It is not kept up to date but nevertheless is a good resource for copies of laws relating to Saudi Arabia. The library can be found at the Saudi legal database


Michael O'Kane can be reached at: mok (at, or @) or use the link below.

The word "mu7ami" is the transliteration of the word "lawyer" in Arabic.

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