Saddam Absent; Trial Adjourns for 2 Weeks

By HAMZA HENDAWI, 6 minutes ago
07 December, 2005

BAGHDAD, Iraq - The trial of Saddam Hussein resumed Wednesday after a lengthy delay but without the former president, who had declared the day before that he would not take part in an "unjust" court. After testimony from a witness, the trial was adjourned until Dec. 21.

Saddam‘s co-defendants and his lawyers were present in the courtroom when Chief Judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin convened the session at 3 p.m. (7 a.m. EST), about four hours late.

The judge then told defense lawyers the court would meet with them after the session to discuss security for the lawyers, which has become a major issue after two members of the defense team were killed.

Saddam and the others are charged in the deaths of more than 140 Shiite Muslims in retaliation for an assassination attempt against him in the town of Dujail in 1982. Saddam accused Iran of ordering the attempt on his life.

The witness said Saddam‘s half brother and co-defendant, Barazan Ibrahim, was present.

But under questioning by the judge, the witness said he was blindfolded at the time and believed it was Ibrahim speaking because other prisoners told him so.

"When we arrived at the building they asked us to stand along the wall," he said. "We were told to stand only on one foot, and we kept on this position for two hours before we were taken to cells with red walls. I was thirsty but the water was very hot."

Saddam‘s threat not to attend the Wednesday session came at the end of a daylong session in which five witnesses — two women and three men — related the events of a 1982 crackdown on Shiite Muslims.

At the end of Tuesday‘s proceedings, the judges agreed over defense objections to meet again the following day. Saddam shouted: "I will not come to an unjust court! Go to hell!"

"This is terrorism," he declared.

Throughout the trial, which began Oct. 19, Saddam has repeatedly confronted the court and attempted to take control of the proceedings with dramatic rhetorical flourishes.

Five witnesses — two women and three men — testified Tuesday in the fourth session of the trial, all of them hidden from public view and with their voices disguised to protect their identities.

The most compelling testimony came from the woman identified only as "Witness A," who was 16 years old at the time of the crackdown. Her voice breaking with emotion, she told the court of beatings and electric shocks by the former president‘s agents.

"I was forced to take off my clothes, and he raised my legs up and tied my hands. He continued administering electric shocks and whipping me and telling me to speak," she said of Wadah al-Sheik, an Iraqi intelligence officer who died of cancer last month while in American custody.