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Iraq: Hussein Trial Goes Forward Without Him

(epa) PRAGUE, 2 February 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein refused to show up at his ongoing trial in Baghdad for the second consecutive day today.

His boycott comes as his lawyers have laid down tough conditions for continuing to cooperate with the court. Those conditions include dismissal of the chief judge and relocation of the proceedings to another country.

So far, the court is showing no signs of heeding the demands. The chief judge, Ra'uf Rashid Abd al-Rahman, has said Hussein and his co-defendants can be tried in absentia if they continue their boycott. "In the name of God who is merciful, and in the name of the Iraqi people, I am opening the 10th session of the special high tribunal of the criminal court for the case of Al-Dujayl," he said as he opened today's procedings.

Abd al-Rahman was speaking to a courtroom from which Saddam Hussein and his seven co-defendants were absent.

As the session got under way, Abd al-Rahman gave a brief explanation of why the defendants' seats were empty. "In the matter of Saddam Hussein, Barzan Ibrahim, Taha Yassin, Awad al-Bandar -- because of their interference during the session of the trial, the court decided to continue this decision keep them out of court in this session, and will also to continue look at this issue," he said.

He also said the other four accused had behaved chaotically outside the courtroom prior to the session and would not attend.

Boycott Continues

The absence of the defendants marks the second day of Hussein's boycott of the latest round of the trial that resumed on 1 February.

The defense team has laid down 11 conditions for returning to the trial. The defense has said it insists the chief judge "be removed and cease to have anything to do with the accused because he shows them great hostility."

The defense team also has demanded the trial be relocated to "a country that can offer security." Two defense lawyers have been killed in Iraq since October.

But, so far, Abd al-Rahman has shown no sign of heeding the defense team's requests. He has said Hussein and the other defendants will be tried in absentia if they fail to appear. Today, he reinforced that warning by continuing with the hearing of witnesses for the prosecution.

Tragedy At Al-Dujayl

The court is trying Hussein and the other seven defendants for the killing of some 140 Shi'ite men and boys in reprisal for a failed assassination attempt against Hussein in the village of Al-Dujayl in 1982.

One of the witnesses gave this testimony today: "I saw that my dad was being beaten. Someone who I didn't know was beating him. Later, I asked him, 'Dad, who was beating you?' And he told me, 'Barzan was beating me.' Then I asked my dad why he was being beaten. And he said, 'Me and your brother were in the woods and there were planes flying above [that saw us there].' After beating my father, Barzan started walking away, and at that time, I did not know him or recognize him. And also, Taha Yassin was standing nearby in the office. I
knew Taha Yassin at that time. But at that time, I did not know Barzan. When I asked my father, he told me that Barzan was the man who beat him."”

Barzan al-Tikriti is the former head of the secret police under Saddam Hussein and his half-brother.

After hearing from two witnesses, the court adjourned until 13 February. No immediate reason was given for the adjournment.

Trying Trial

Trying the eight defendants has been a stormy, on-again, off-again process since they first appeared in court on 19 October. The trial resumed on 1 February after being suspended for two days when chaos erupted after Barzan al-Tikriti called the trial the "daughter of a whore."

The court has previously granted delays for the defense to prepare its case. And Hussein himself has repeatedly disrupted proceedings to argue the court is the agent of an occupying power and has no authority to try him.

The tensions have already resulted in the five-judge panel's first chief judge submitting his resignation on 10 January. Rizgar Muhammad Amin did so after coming under heavy media criticism in Iraq that he was too lenient in controlling the defendants' outbursts.

The naming of Abd al-Rahman to replace Amin as chief judge brought a storm of protests from defense lawyers because of his personal history.

Abd al-Rahman was twice arrested by the former regime and once tortured to the point that he was left partly paralyzed. He also is a native of Halabjah, the Kurdish town attacked with chemical weapons by Hussein's forces in 1988.

The defense argues that those facts make Abd al-Rahman biased against their clients. The court says the judge can conduct the trial impartially.

(RFE/RL's Afghan Service contributed to this report.)

The Tragedy At Al-Dujayl

The Tragedy At Al-Dujayl

A protester in Baghdad carries a picture of a relative killed at Al-Dujayl (AFP file photo)


Former Iraqi dictator SADDAM HUSSEIN and seven of his associates went on trial on October 19, 2005, on charges of crimes against humanity for the regime's role in the deaths of 148 residents from the town of Al-Dujayl, and the imprisonment of 1,500 others following a botched assassination attempt against Hussein there on July 8, 1982. Following the arrests and deportations, the regime leveled the town... (more)

See also:

Al-Dujayl Native Tells Her Story

Al-Dujayl Survivor Says 'We Want The Deserved Punishment For The Guilty

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