Saddam back in courtroom, lashes out at Bush, judge
BAGHDAD, Iraq – Prosecutors produced documents and put former aides to Saddam Hussein on the stand Monday as they made their strongest attempt yet to link him directly to torture and executions.The ousted president, who looked disheveled and appeared in his slippers, shouted “Down with Bush!”Saddam’s half brother, Barzan Ibrahim – dressed only in an undershirt and long underwear – struggled with guards as he was pulled into the courtroom. Ibrahim, the former chief of intelligence, then sat on the floor with his back to the judge in protest for much of the session.The defendants have rejected court-appointed attorneys named to replace their own lawyers who walked out of the trial last month, and are demanding the removal of chief judge Raouf Abdel-Rahman. In Jordan, Saddam’s chief defense lawyer said there were no plans to end the boycott and denounced the court for forcing the former leader to attend.”This is a cheap attitude,” Khaled al-Dulaimi told The Associated Press.After the raucous start, prosecutors tried to prove Saddam’s role in a wave of arrests and executions that followed a 1982 attempt on his life in the Shiite village of Dujail.Twenty-six prosecution witnesses have testified since the Saddam trial began Oct. 19, many providing accounts of torture and imprisonment in the crackdown, but they could not directly pin them on Saddam.For the first time, the prosecution introduced documents and put two former members of Saddam’s regime on the stand. The witnesses included one of his closest aides, Ahmed Hussein Khudayer al-Samarrai, head of Saddam’s presidential office from 1984 to 1991 and then again from 1995 until Saddam’s ouster in 2003.Screens in the courtroom, including the press gallery, showed a document in Arabic dated to 1984 allegedly written and signed by Saddam in which he ratified “the execution of the Dujail criminals.” A handwritten note at the bottom was allegedly by al-Samarrai.Asked if the note was his handwriting, al-Samarrai, 62, said he could not be sure.”I don’t remember,” he said. “I don’t remember anything at all.”Another document shown in the court was a 1987 memo from the presidential office’s legal department saying two people sentenced to death in connection with Dujail had not been executed and suggesting that they be released because of old age and that those responsible for the “oversight” should be investigated.A note written in the margin at the bottom, allegedly in Saddam’s handwriting, approved the investigation but says the two people should be spared execution “because we cannot allow luck to be more compassionate than us even when compassion here goes to the undeserving.”Prosecutors have said that they had documents showing that Saddam was closely following the crackdown. Asked if he recognized the handwriting on the memo, al-Samarrai replied, “Mr. President.” That sparked a swift and angry correction from chief prosecutor Jaafar al-Moussawi and Abdel-Rahman, the chief judge. “Defendant Saddam Hussein,” they shot back.Al-Samarrai insisted he knew nothing about the events in Dujail except what he said he had heard on foreign radio broadcasts.”I am not fit to be a witness in this case,” he pleaded with Abdel-Rahman and al-Moussawi. “I don’t want to be a witness.”Both al-Samarrai and the second witness, former intelligence official Hassan al-Obeidi, complained they too had been brought to the court against their will. Both are in custody in connection with other cases, according to al-Moussawi.In Monday’s session, two judges sitting on each side of Abdel-Rahman read affidavits of 23 prosecution witnesses, with further accounts of imprisonment and torture in the crackdown.Saddam and his seven co-defendants are on trial in the killing of nearly 150 Shiite Muslims in Dujail. If convicted, they could face the death penalty by hanging.Abdel-Rahman, who took over last month as chief judge, rode out the hearing’s initial chaos by being both tough and accommodating, allowing Saddam and Ibrahim to talk, but interrupting them when they steered away from matters related to the case or if they spoke for too long.Ibrahim was physically forced into the room Monday, shouting and struggling with guards holding him by the arms. Saddam and the other defendants walked in freely, apparently having decided to comply with the judge’s order rather than risk getting the same treatment as Ibrahim.But they made clear their opposition to being ordered to attend, with Saddam shouting chants against Bush.Later, Abdel-Rahman rebuked Saddam for not rising when speaking to the court.”I don’t do this for a man who doesn’t respect the law,” Saddam replied. He argued that he could not be forced to accept court-appointed lawyers.”We are implementing a law that was issued when you were president,” Abdel-Rahman told him.Even their dress signaled their defiance. Ibrahim appeared in long underwear and a white undershirt. His head was bare without the Arab headdress he insisted on wearing in past sessions as a mark of dignity.Saddam carried a Quran in his left hand and wore a blue dishdashah – or traditional Arab robe – with a black overcoat and slippers, a stark contrast to the smart black suits he has worn to past sessions with a white handkerchief in his breast pocket.”Why have you brought us with force?” Saddam shouted at Abdel-Rahman. “Your authority gives you the right to try a defendant in absentia. Are you trying to overcome your own smallness?””Degradation and shame upon you, Raouf,” Saddam yelled. Later, he called the investigating judges “homosexuals.”The defiant performance of Saddam and Ibrahim won them instant praise from Saddam’s daughter, living in Jordan.”My father dealt well with the Judge. Uncle Barzan is a very educated person and a hero, a real hero,” Raghad Saddam Hussein told Al-Arabiyah television. “My father has nothing to lose. … After being the leader of Iraq for more than 35 years, he cannot be afraid for his life.”Vail, Colorado
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