Saddam walks out in trial uproar


Former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein walked out of court amid uproar within minutes of the resumption of his murder trial under a new presiding judge.

He left in protest after his defence team walked out, and was followed by two more of his co-defendants.

The walkouts came after the new chief judge, Raouf Abdul Rahman, had Saddam's half brother and co-defendant Barzan al-Tikriti removed from the courtroom.

Saddam and seven others are on trial for the 1982 killing of 148 villagers.

They could face the death penalty if convicted of the killings, which followed an assassination attempt on Saddam Hussein in the village of Dujail.

The trial continued for some time with half of the defendants missing until the judge adjourned it until Wednesday.

New court rules
The court proceedings started with the new chief judge saying that he would not tolerate any defendants making political speeches or disobeying his authority.

His predecessor, Judge Rizgar Amin, had resigned earlier this month after criticism that he had been too lenient towards the defendants.

Mr Tikriti, a former Iraqi intelligence chief who is suffering from cancer, launched into a lengthy complaint about his medical condition and treatment.

Judge Rahman ordered the forcible removal of Mr Tikriti, who shouted that the court was "the daughter of a whore" as he was dragged away.

The judge then rounded on the defence lawyers, saying that they had contributed to the atmosphere that allowed defendants to think they could make lengthy speeches and disrespect the authority of the court.

Next, a defence lawyer was ejected from the court, and as a result the rest of Saddam's defence team stormed out, despite the judge warning "any lawyer who walks out will not be allowed back into this courtroom".

Heated exchange
The former Iraqi leader then launched into a vigorous exchange with the judge, telling him that he wanted to leave and be tried in absentia.

"I want to leave the court," Saddam Hussein demanded of the judge, who in turn ordered the former leader out.

"I led you for 35 years and you order me out of the court?" the former Iraqi president responded angrily.

"I am the judge, you are the defendant. You have to obey me," the judge hit back.

He accused Judge Rahman of abusing his rights as a defendant who was "innocent until proven guilty".

As the argument became more heated Saddam Hussein banged his hands on the dock and hurled insults at the judge.

Eventually, the judge said that the defendant should also be removed and he was led from the court too, shouting "Down with the traitors!" as he went.

'Justice undermined'
Judge Rahman then appointed four new defence lawyers, but two more of the defendants, Taha Yassin Ramadan and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, said they did not approve of their appointment and they also left the court.

The trial then resumed with an anonymous female witness giving evidence about events in Dujail from behind a curtain until it was adjourned until Wednesday.

Saad Djebbar, an international lawyer and commentator on Middle East politics, told the BBC that the chaotic scenes meant that the whole trial was being undermined:

"I think it was a big mistake that this trial was held in Iraq because the judge, you cannot find a person, one individual today in Iraq - judge, lawyer, prosecutor who is impartial vis-a-vis Saddam Hussein. Either they are with him or against him."