The trial of Saddam Hussein resumed on Monday without the ousted Iraqi leader, who was being fed through a tube on Sunday after 16 days on hunger strike.
Defense lawyers boycotted Monday’s session in protest at what they have said was the court’s refusal to meet their demands for a fair trial as the case nears a verdict that could lead to Saddam’s hanging.
Saddam was not scheduled to appear in court until Wednesday, attorney Jaafar al-Moussawi said.
Al-Moussawi said he visited the prison Sunday where Saddam and the seven other co-defendants are held and was told that the ex-president’s health “is unstable because of the hunger strike.”
“We took him to hospital and he is being currently fed by a tube,” al-Moussawi told The Associated Press. He refused to identify the hospital.
Al-Moussawi initially said Saddam’s condition was “not stable,” but he later said it had been stabilized.
A spokesman for the U.S. detention command confirmed that Saddam was “voluntarily receiving nutrition through a feeding tube” and that his “condition is constantly monitored by medical personnel.”
“His condition is not life-threatening,” Lt. Col. Keir-Kevin Curry said.
“He remains in coalition care and custody, and we’re providing appropriate medical care. He still remains in our care and custody in one of the installations, facilities, per se,” he added.
Protest against court procedures
Saddam, 69, and three others — presumed to be co-defendants Barzan Ibrahim, Taha Yassin Ramadan and Awad al-Bandar — have been refusing food since dinner on July 7 to protest the Iraqi High Tribunal procedures and security for their defense attorneys, three of whom have been slain.
Saddam and the others are charged in a crackdown on Shiites in the town of Dujail following a 1982 assassination attempt against the Iraqi leader.
The hunger strike was launched after the June 21 slaying of Khamis al-Obeidi, the third member of the defense team to be assassinated since the trial began in October. The defense team has blamed Shiite militiamen for al-Obeidi’s death.
Defense calls for security
In a letter to the court, the defense said it wanted U.S. authorities to provide security for the lawyers and their families. It also demanded a 45-day recess to allow it to prepare closing statements and a promise from the court that it would be allowed to take as long as it wishes to present its final arguments.
Court spokesman Raid Juhi said the defense had rejected an offer of the same security precaution given to the judges and prosecution lawyers: Residence inside the Green Zone, the fortified Baghdad neighborhood where the court is located.
Court officials have predicted that verdicts would come in mid-August. Saddam and the other three top defendants could face the death penalty if convicted on the charges.
Saddam also is set to go on trial Aug. 21 for a 1980s crackdown that killed an estimated 100,000 Kurds.