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Saddam says he was forced into courtroom

A thinner but combative Saddam Hussein appeared in court on Wednesday for the first time since his hunger strike and hospitalization.
Saddam Hussein appears in a Baghdad courtroom on Wednesday.
Saddam Hussein appears in a Baghdad courtroom on Wednesday.APTN
/ Source: The Associated Press

A thinner but combative Saddam Hussein appeared in court Wednesday for the first time since his hunger strike and hospitalization, complaining that he had been brought to the chamber against his will and rejecting the tribunal as an agent of the U.S. occupation.

“The Americans insisted that I come against my will. This is not fair,” Saddam told the chief judge.

He also asked the court to execute him by firing squad — “not by hanging as a common criminal” — if it convicts him of all charges and sentences him to death.

As the session began in the U.S.-controlled Green Zone, the ousted president was allowed to make a statement, beginning with a verse from the Quran, in which he challenged the validity and impartiality of the court which could sentence him to death by hanging.

Saddam: 'I am a military man'
Saddam and seven co-defendants have been on trial since Oct. 19 in the killing and torture of Shiites in Dujail following a 1982 assassination attempt against him there. The prosecution has asked for the death penalty for Saddam and two of the seven others.

“I ask you being an Iraqi person that if you reach a verdict of death, execution, remember that I am a military man and should be killed by firing squad and not by hanging as a common criminal,” Saddam said.

Chief Judge Raouf Abdel-Rahman reminded Saddam that the trial was still under way and that the court had not reached a verdict. Executions in Iraq are normally by hanging.

Saddam then repeated a theme he has voiced since the start of the trial — that the panel is an illegal instrument of the American occupation and is unjust.

“If you were a real Iraqi, you would know that your country is going through extraordinary conditions,” Saddam said. “We not only resist this occupation. We do not acknowledge it. We do not acknowledge all the decisions it has made, including appointing the so-called government and this court you represent.”

Chief Judge Raouf Abdel-Rahman interrupted him, telling him “you were not brought here against your will. Here’s the medical report ... and it indicates that you are in good shape.”

“I didn’t say I was ill,” Saddam snapped back. “I was on a hunger strike.”

Saddam last attended the proceedings on June 19 when chief prosecutor Jaafar al-Moussawi asked the court to impose the death penalty on the former ruler for his role in the deaths of Shiite Muslims in Dujail following a 1982 assassination attempt against him.

The hunger strike and the lawyers’ boycott followed last month’s kidnap-slaying of defense attorney Khamis al-Obeidi, the third defense attorney slain since the trial began. The defense has accused Shiite militias for the killing.

Saddam objects to lawyer
During his remarks, Saddam also objected to having a court-appointed attorney deliver the final summation on his behalf. The replacement was appointed after the regular defense team boycotted the proceedings, claiming bias by the court and to press demands for better security for its members.

“Where are your lawyers,” the judge asked. “They’re staying outside in front of the TV screens and inciting violence. Those are lawyers? Having millions of dinars? Listen Saddam Hussein, your lawyers have millions of dinars and are inciting violence.”

As the court-appointed lawyer began to speak, Saddam interrupted him.

“You are my enemy. Who appointed you?” he asked. “I challenge you to read this on your own. He probably didn’t even write this. The American agent, the spy probably wrote this for him.”

During the summation, the court-appointed lawyer, whose identity was kept secret for security reasons, said the documents and witnesses presented by the prosecution did not tie Saddam personally to any killings and torture of the Dujail Shiites.

“Instead they refer to ’Saddam the tyrant,’ ’Saddam the killer’ ... and such references that reflect being written by people who are not impartial,” the lawyer said.

“The documents lack any details when it comes to a specific role for Saddam in Dujail in 1982. There is no proof that when he was president he visited Dujail after the assassination attempt. There’s no proof he was there when the detentions happened,” the lawyer added.

With Saddam, the court has heard six of the eight final summations. After the final one is presented, the court will adjourn to consider a verdict, possibly in mid-August.

Saddam is due to stand trial Aug. 21 in a second case — the bloody crackdown on Iraqi Kurds in the 1980s.