WASHINGTON, 15 March 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Gesturing with his thick brown glasses, Hussein declared the proceedings a "comedy" and called on Iraqis to expel all "invaders". He denounced the recent wave of sectarian violence, including the destruction of a Shi'ite shrine in Samarra last month.
"What I have heard about our people lately, or what was attributed to our people for premeditated reasons, is out of character and strange," Hussein said. "My consciousness and my mind are telling me that the Iraqi people -- the faithful and honest, the unified and glorious, under the protection of Almighty God -- are innocent of blowing up the sacred shrine of Imam al-Hadi and Imam al-Askari [in Samarra]."
Judge Raouf Abdel-Rahman periodically interrupted the former leader, turning off his microphone and reminding him not to give political speeches.
"You are now in a criminal case. You are accused of a serious crime which is the killing of innocent people. Testify to this case. We gave you the chance to testify, not [to talk] about your old struggle with America."
Hussein retorted that if it weren't for America then he wouldn't be in the courtroom at all.
Abdel-Rahman tried once more to rein Hussein in.
"What is the relation between your struggle with America and the case in this trial?" the judge asked. "We are an Iraqi criminal court. We have nothing to do with your political problem."
Finally, Abdel-Rahman gave up. He ordered that the live broadcast be cut off. The court has retained the right to censor sessions.
Hussein took the stand after his half-brother Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, the former head of the Iraqi intelligence service. He denied playing any role in the 1982 massacre of villagers in Al-Dujayl, declaring that his hands are as "clean as Moses's."
Barzan was more restrained than during some of his previous appearances. On February 13, Barzan interrupted a session by chanting, "Long live the Iraqi people."
The trial resumes on April 5.