Saddam Trial Resumes for Closing Arguments
Monday, July 24, 2006; 7:23 AM
BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Saddam Hussein's trial resumed Monday for closing arguments, a day after the former Iraqi leader was hospitalized and fed with a tube during his hunger strike to demand better security for his lawyers.
Prosecutor Jaafar al-Moussawi said Saddam's condition had stabilized and he should be fit to appear in court this week. He was not present when the trial resumed Monday after a two-week break and had not been scheduled to present his closing statement until later in the week.
Saddam began the hunger strike July 7 to protest the killings of three members of the defense team since the trial began in October. The latest lawyer attacked was Khamis al-Obeidi, who was abducted and slain June 21.
The defense rejected an offer of the same security provided to the judges and prosecution lawyers: residence inside the Green Zone, the fortified Baghdad neighborhood where the court is located. Instead, they wanted bodyguards.
Saddam and the seven others have been on trial since Oct. 19 for the deaths of Shiite Muslims after a crackdown in the town of Dujail, which was launched after an assassination attempt there in 1982. They could receive the death penalty if convicted.
Chief Judge Raouf Abdel-Rahman adjourned the session July 11 to give the defense team time to reconsider its boycott of the proceedings over al-Obeidi's death. The defense has blamed the slaying on Shiite militiamen.
The defense announced last week that it would continue the boycott, despite the judge's threat to appoint attorneys to deliver final summations. Two of Saddam's seven co-defendants were expected to give their closings on Monday.
Saddam's half brother Barzan Ibrahim told the court during the session that he rejected his court-appointed counsel and asked for more time to find a new attorney or to convince his lawyers to come back.
Abdel-Rahman asked him to listen to the closing argument of the court-appointed lawyer but Barzan, a former intelligence chief, refused and said he wanted to leave.
"I have lawyers as your honor knows but they are passing through very difficult and critical times because three of them were killed and one was injured and is still in hospital," Barzan said.
Abdel-Rahman ignored the comment and the court-appointed lawyer began his summation.
"I want to ask you, how long will you and your lawyers continue this game," the judge snapped. "This game with the court is meant to prolong the trial. ... Regrettably, your lawyers are making speeches and accusations against the court accusing it of being linked with the Americans and the occupation."
Barzan was among the three defendants, along with Saddam and former Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan, who had been refusing food. Despite more than two weeks without food, Barzan appeared fit.
After final summations for all defendants, the court is expected to adjourn and consider a verdict, which is likely in mid-August. Saddam is due to stand trial Aug. 21 in the crackdown against the Kurds in the 1980s, in which an estimated 100,000 of them died.