IMAGE: Saddam Hussein and co-defendants
Ben Curtis  /  Pool via AFP - Getty Images
Left to right, defendants Taha Yassin Ramadan, Saddam Hussein, Abdullah Kazim Ruwayyid and Mizhar Abdullah Ruwayyid stand during their trial in Baghdad on Monday.
updated 11/28/2005 1:42:09 PM ET 2005-11-28T18:42:09

The trial of Saddam Hussein resumed Monday with the former Iraqi president trying to take command of the courtroom and angrily complaining about being shackled and mistreated by “occupiers and invaders.”

A former U.S. attorney general sat with the defense team and said it would be “extremely difficult” to get a fair trial. Other defendants spoke out, too, complaining of their treatment in detention or dissatisfaction with their court-appointed counsel.

After a short session in which the first testimony was read into the record, Chief Judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin adjourned the trial until Dec. 5 to allow time to find replacements for two defense lawyers who were slain and another who fled Iraq after he was wounded.

Dressed in black trousers and a gray jacket with a white handkerchief in the breast pocket, Saddam was the last of eight defendants to enter the heavily guarded courtroom, walking with a swagger, appearing confident and acknowledging people with the traditional Arabic greeting, “Peace be upon the people of peace.” He also carried a copy of the Muslim holy book, the Quran.

Saddam and his co-defendants are charged in the killings of more than 140 Shiite Muslims after an assassination attempt against the former president in the Shiite town of Dujail in 1982. Convictions could bring a sentence of death by hanging.

Saddam snaps at judge
The former leader pleaded innocent to charges of murder, torture, forced expulsions and illegal detentions at the opening session last month.

Amin had ordered all handcuffs and shackles removed from Saddam and the seven co-defendants before they entered the courtroom. Mortar fire echoed through the capital just before the session began.

Once inside, Saddam had a brief but heated exchange with Amin, complaining of having to walk up four flights of stairs in shackles because the elevator was not working.

The judge said he would tell the police not to let that happen again.

Saddam snapped: “You are the chief judge. I don’t want you to tell them. I want you to order them. They are in our country. You have the sovereignty. You are Iraqi and they are foreigners and occupiers. They are invaders. You should order them.”

Saddam also complained he was escorted up the stairs by “foreign guards” and that some of his papers had been taken.

“How can a defendant defend himself if his pen was taken? Saddam Hussein’s pen and papers were taken. I don’t mean a white paper. There are papers downstairs that include my remarks in which I express my opinion,” he said.

Saddam’s half brother and fellow defendant, Barazan Ibrahim, also complained he had not received proper medical treatment since being diagnosed with cancer and that this amounted to “indirect murder.”

Saddam then complained that he had written three or four memos to the judge since the Oct. 19 session but received no response. The judge said he was unaware of them.

Tolerance frustrates Shiites
The court’s tolerance of such comments appeared aimed at dispelling concerns by foreign human rights groups that Saddam could not get a fair trial here. But the court’s patience has not been well-received by Shiite politicians, who want a quick conviction.

“Iraqis are beginning to feel frustrated,” said Ridha Jawad Taki of the largest Shiite party. “The court should be more active. Saddam was captured two years ago and we feel that the sentence he will get will be reduced ... The weakness of this court might affect the verdicts and this is worrying us.”

Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark and former Qatari Justice Minister Najib al-Nueimi sat with the defense team inside the heavily guarded room. Saddam’s chief lawyer, Khalil Dulaimi, also was there.

A moment of silence was observed in memory of two defense lawyers slain since the trial began. Other defense attorneys were on hand, despite their threatened boycott to protest the government’s alleged failure to protect them.

Fair trial in question
Clark and al-Nueimi flew to Baghdad on Sunday from Amman, Jordan, to lend weight to the defense team. Both have been advising Saddam’s lawyers and support their call to have the trial moved out of Iraq.

Clark and others argue that a fair trial is impossible in Iraq because of the insurgency and because the country is effectively under foreign military occupation. U.S. and Iraqi officials insist the trial will conform to international standards.

Clark told CNN it was “extremely difficult” to assure fairness in the trial “because the passions in the country are at a fever pitch.”

“How can you ask a witness to come in when there’s a death threat?” he asked. “Unless there’s protection for the defense, I don’t know how the trial can go forward.”

Clark wasn’t optimistic about fairness for the defense. “The way they run the court is the lawyers on the defense side have very little participation,” he told CNN. “Nothing presented by the defense lawyers was really acted upon.”

Clark, who was attorney general under President Lyndon Johnson, is a staunch anti-war advocate who met with Saddam days before the 2003 invasion. He has also consulted several times with one-time Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, who is on trial in The Hague, Netherlands, on war crimes charges.

Harsh retribution
A videotape obtained from Iraqi intelligence was shown in court, depicting Saddam in Dujail right after the incident in a military uniform, questioning three men held by guards.

The court also played the videotaped testimony of former intelligence officer Wadah Ismael al-Sheik, who investigated the assassination attempt and died of cancer Oct. 27.

Amin read the transcript as the tape played without sound. According to the transcript, al-Sheik, who appeared frail and sat in a wheelchair in a U.S.-controlled hospital last month, said about 400 people were detained after the assassination attempt, although he estimated only between seven and 12 gunmen actively participated in the ambush of Saddam’s convoy.

“I don’t know why so many people were arrested,” al-Sheik said, adding that Ibrahim, head of intelligence at the time, “was the one directly giving the orders.”

A day after the assassination attempt, whole families were rounded up and taken to Abu Ghraib prison, he said.

Also, co-defendant Taha Yassin Ramadan, a former vice president, headed a committee that ordered orchards that were the basis of Dujail’s livelihood to be destroyed, he said. The orchards had been used to conceal the assailants, he said.

Eight arrested for plot to kill judge
Tight security surrounded the trial. The precise starting time was not announced due to fear of attack by both Saddam’s supporters and opponents.

The front row of seats in the press gallery bore a warning in English and Arabic: “If you sit here, you could be on television.”

Authorities said police on Saturday arrested eight Sunni Arabs allegedly plotting to kill the judge who prepared Saddam’s indictment. The eight were apprehended in the northern city of Kirkuk, police Col. Anwar Qadir said.

The eight were carrying orders from a former top Saddam deputy, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, to kill investigating judge Raed Juhi, he said. Al-Douri is the highest-ranking member of the Saddam regime still at large and is believed to be at least the symbolic leader of Saddam loyalists fighting U.S. forces and Iraq’s new government.

The predominantly Sunni insurgency has complicated efforts to put Saddam on trial and forced tight security. For example, names of four of the five trial judges have been kept secret and some of the 35 witnesses may testify behind curtains to protect them.

The trial has unleashed passions in an Iraqi society deeply divided in its judgment of Saddam and his rule.

Many Sunni Arab insurgent groups include Saddam loyalists, members of the former ruling Baath Party and veterans of both Saddam’s personal militia and the Republican Guard.

The ousted leader, meanwhile, is vilified by Iraq’s Shiite Muslim majority and its Kurdish community, which were oppressed during his rule.

On Saturday, hundreds of supporters of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr rallied in Baghdad demanding Saddam’s execution.

Separately, the leader of the biggest Shiite party, Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, accused the court of “weakness” for not having sentenced Saddam to death already. He also complained that media attention over allegations of torture by the Shiite-led security services had belittled Saddam’s alleged crimes.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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