Hussein's Day at Trial: More Rancor and a Fight
Monday, January 30, 2006
BAGHDAD, Jan. 29 -- Angry tirades and a brawl marked the return of Saddam Hussein to the defendant's dock Sunday, as a new chief judge proved incapable of stopping the disorder that has dominated the trial of Iraq's deposed dictator.
The session, the first in a month, was the most rancorous yet in an already turbulent trial. Barzan Ibrahim, a co-defendant and Hussein's half brother, was dragged out fighting with bailiffs after he insulted the court. Defense attorneys walked out in protest, saying the trial was unfair, and Hussein was escorted from the room after a shouting match with Chief Judge Raouf Rasheed Abdel-Rahman, who declared he would no longer tolerate such behavior.
Abdel-Rahman appointed new defense attorneys and resumed the trial with the remaining six co-defendants, who are accused of killing more than 140 people in retaliation for an assassination attempt against Hussein in 1982. The court heard testimony from three witnesses, and after five hours, the trial adjourned until Wednesday.
The courtroom chaos left the trial a shambles. International observers had already questioned the fairness of a trial in which two defense attorneys were assassinated and three of the original five judges departed. Now it is unclear whether Hussein and his attorneys will return for the next court session.
A trial official said at a news conference that the lawyers would have to ask to be readmitted and that Hussein might be compelled to come against his wishes.
"The court controls the session; it is not according to Saddam's will," said the trial official, who spoke on the condition he not be named. "Everything is going according to law."
The head of Hussein's defense team demanded that the trial be moved abroad.
"In view of the biased policies adopted by the court's chief judge to push for a quick conviction, we are demanding that the trial be moved outside Iraq to put an end to this farce," Khalil Dulaimi told the Reuters news service.
Abdel-Rahman, who replaced Judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin after the latter resigned, made it clear at the outset that he would not tolerate the political speeches and insults that have frequently interrupted the trial since it opened in October.
"Political speeches outside the scope are for outside the court," Abdel-Rahman said. "Any speeches outside the scope will be deleted from the minutes of the court. Any defendant who violates the law will be taken outside the courtroom and be tried according to the law."
This rule faced an immediate challenge from Ibrahim, who stood up from his seat in the rear of the courtroom. "I am satisfied to deal with the court in spite of my conviction that the court is illegitimate," he said.
"You mentioned a word -- what was it?" Abdel-Rahman asked.