Saddam Ejected from Court After New Disruptions

Former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is removed from a third straight court session after repeated clashes with the presiding judge. Saddam and six co-defendants are accused of gassing tens of thousands of Kurds in a 1987-88 offensive.

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It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Steve Inskeep.

Here's an update on two presidents of Iraq. The former president is on trial for genocide against ethnic Kurds. The other is the ethnic Kurd who replaced him as the head of state. We begin with Saddam Hussein.

He refused a judge's orders to tone down his language, so he has been thrown out of the courtroom for the third time in a row. NPR's Anne Garrels reports.

ANNE GARRELS: Today's court session began with a stern lecture from the presiding judge.

Mr. MOHAMMED AL-UREYBI (Presiding Judge, Saddam Hussein Trial): (Foreign language spoken)

GARRELS: He told Saddam he can defend himself and question witnesses, but he warned this is a court not a political arena. After listening to the judge's rebuke for his past behavior, Saddam took out a piece of paper and began reading what appeared to be a prepared statement. Saddam ignored requests he sit down. The judge then allowed him to continue but cut off the microphones.

Later in the proceedings, Saddam challenged the prosecutors.

Mr. SADDAM HUSSEIN (Former President of Iraq): (Foreign language spoken)

GARRELS: Damn this justice, he shouted at the judge. When he continued to shout at the judge despite requests he sit down, the microphones were once again shut off. The silent TV pictures showed a standoff between Saddam and the judge, who ordered him removed from the courtroom. Saddam's six codefendants then joined the melee, demanding they leave too. The judge declared a recess.

Saddam Hussein stands accused of genocide in the killing and gassing of tens of thousands of Kurds during the Anfal military campaign of 1988. He and the six codefendants are now represented by court-appointed attorneys because their defense teams walked out last week to protest the firing of the previous chief judge.

Before the trial went into recess today, two Kurdish witnesses described how the Iraqi military had destroyed their villages. And they said family members, including children, had disappeared during the military campaign.

Anne Garrels, NPR News, Baghdad.

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