Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Trial adjourned after Saddam refuses to attend

Source : Guardian

Saddam Hussein refused to attend his own trial in Baghdad today after declaring he had been mistreated by an "unjust court", a court official said.

The former Iraqi dictator delayed the hearing by four hours, before the presiding judge, Rizgar Amin, decided to continue without him. He subsequently adjourned the trial until December 21. Saddam's lawyers were present for the proceedings.

Saddam and seven co-defendants are being tried for the torture and killing of 140 Shia residents from the town of Dujail in 1982 in retaliation for an assassination attempt. He faces the death penalty if convicted.

At the end of yesterday's hearing, Saddam threatened to boycott proceedings, complaining that he and his co-defendants had been mistreated during the trial.

"I will not come to an unjust court," he said. "Go to hell."

He stuck by his threat this morning and refused to attend the hearing. Hours of legal discussions between Saddam and his defence team followed before the judge decided to reconvene the session without him.

Judge Amin later adjourned the trial. The hearing has already been adjourned twice after the accused men's defence team said they needed more time to prepare a case.

Saddam, dressed in a dark suit and holding a Qur'an, yesterday complained that he and his co-defendants were tired and had been deprived of opportunities to shower, change their clothes, exercise or smoke.

"This is terrorism," he said.

The trial has been frequently interrupted by violent outbursts. On Monday, Saddam declared he was not afraid of execution, while his half-brother and one of the co-defendants, Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, swore and spat at the judge.

Last week Saddam berated the judge for saying he would ask US soldiers to loosen the former president's shackles. "You do not ask them, you order them," Saddam said.

Yesterday's outburst came at the end of a harrowing session when an unidentified woman witness told of repeated beatings, torture and sexual humiliation in his regime's detention centres when she was a teenager.

But neither "Witness A", nor another woman who took the stand later, was able to identify Saddam as directly responsible for crimes against humanity.

All five witnesses - the two women and three men - who gave evidence yesterday had their voices disguised and were hidden to protect their identity.

The son of one of the guards at Saddam's trial was kidnapped this morning.

The eight-year-old boy was seized in front of his house in Baghdad. It is not yet known whether the kidnapping is connected to the trial.

Two defence lawyers for Saddam were shot dead by unidentifie


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