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Saddam Yells at Judge in Unruly Session

Associated Press/HAMZA HENDAWI | December 5 2005

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Saddam Hussein's defense team staged a brief walkout Monday, the former president railed at the judge, and the first witness took the stand to testify that Saddam's agents carried out random arrests, torture and killings in an Iraqi village as the unruly trial resumed.

Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, who is helping represent Saddam, spoke on behalf of the deposed president, saying he needed only two minutes to present his argument.

But Chief Judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin at first said only Saddam's chief lawyer could speak. Amin said the defense should submit its motion in writing and warned that if the defense walked out then the court would appoint replacement lawyers.

After the defense lawyers left, Saddam, shaking his right hand, told the judge: "You are imposing lawyers on us. They are imposed lawyers. The court is imposed by itself. We reject that."

Saddam and his half brother Barazan Ibrahim then chanted "Long live Iraq, long live the Arab state."

Ibrahim stood up and shouted: "Why don't you just execute us and get rid of all of this!"

When the judge explained that he was ruling in accordance with the law, Saddam replied: "This is a law made by America and does not reflect Iraqi sovereignty."

It was the third court session in the trial of Saddam and seven co-defendants — accused in the 1982 killing of more than 140 Shiites after an assassination attempt against the president in Dujail — where Saddam at times appeared to be in control of the court as much as the presiding judge.

After the lawyers spoke, the first witness to take the stand, Ahmed Hassan Mohammed, began his emotional but often rambling testimony. He said that after an assassination attempt on Saddam, security agencies took people of all ages from age 14 to over age 70. They were tortured for 70 days at the intelligence headquarters in Baghdad before being moved to Abu Ghraib prison where the abuse continued, he said.

"There were mass arrests. Women and men. Even if a child was 1-day-old they used to tell his parents, 'Bring him with you,"' Mohammed said. He said he was taken to a security center where "I saw bodies of people from Dujail."

"They were martyrs I knew," Mohammed said, giving the name of the nine whose bodies were there.

After the walkout and a 90-minute recess to resolve the issue, the court reconvened and Amin allowed Clark and ex-Qatari Justice Minister Najib al-Nueimi to speak on the questions of the legitimacy of the tribunal and safety of the lawyers.

"Reconciliation is essential," Clark told the court. "This trial can divide or heal. Unless it is seen as absolutely fair, and fair in fact, it will divide rather than reconcile Iraq."

At that point, the judge reminded Clark that he was to speak only about the security guarantees for the defense lawyers — two of whom have been assassinated since the trial began Oct. 19.

Clark then said all parties were entitled to protection, and the measures offered to protect the defense and their families were "absurd." Clark said that without such protection, the judicial system would collapse.

Al-Nueimi then spoke about the legitimacy issue, arguing that court is not independent and was in fact set up under the U.S.-led occupation rather than by a legal Iraqi government. He said the language of the statute was unchanged from that promulgated by the former top U.S. administrator in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, and was therefore "illegitimate."

The first witness earlier exchanged insults with Saddam's half brother, telling him "you killed a 14-year-old boy."

"To hell," the half brother, Ibrahim, replied.

"You and your children go to hell," the witness replied.

The judge then asked them to avoid such exchanges.

As the testimony continued, Saddam's lawyers objected that someone in the visitors' gallery was making threatening gestures and should be removed. Saddam's half brother leapt to his feet and shouted, "These are criminals."

The judge ordered the person removed from the visitors' gallery and questioned.

"There was random arrests in the streets, all the forces of the (Baath) party, and Thursday became `Judgment Day' and Dujail has become a battle front," the witness said, sometime fighting back tears. "Shootings started and nobody could leave or enter Dujail. At night, intelligence agents arrived headed by Barazan" Ibrahim.

Ibrahim interrupted him at one point, saying: "I am a patriot and I was the head of the intelligence service of Iraq."

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