Chaos at the Saddam Trial
DEBBIE ELLIOT, host:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. From NPR News, I'm Debbie Elliot. In Iraq today, the trial of Saddam Hussein and seven co-defendants resumed and then quickly descended into chaos. A defendant and a defense lawyer were kicked out of the court amid scuffles and insults. The tribunal had reopened with a new judge, after the first judge stepped down earlier this month. NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro is in Baghdad and reports on the days dramatics.
LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO reporting:
With a stern face the new chief judge Raouf Abdel-Rahman started the day with this admonishment:
Chief Judge RAOUF ABDEL-RAHMAN: (Speaking Arabic)
GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Translating) Any political speeches irrelevant to the case are forbidden, he said, please abide by the rules and procedures of the Iraqi courts. But it didn't take long for events to spin out of control, hijacked by the defendants and their lawyers.
(Soundbite of trial)
One of the co-defendants, Saddam's brother-in-law, Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, began by calling the court the daughter of a whore, and complaining of not getting treatment of his cancer. After he refused to quiet down on the new judge's orders, he was dragged out pushing and yelling by two guards. Saddam joined the fray, shouting down with the traitors, down with America. The defense lawyers began too at Barzan Ibrahim's removal. One of them was then also removed. At which point the entire defense team got up and left. The judge told them they would not be allowed back into the court. Saddam, not one to waste a moment of high drama, then got into his own argument with the judge after Agdel Rachman(ph) said the trial would continue with new court appointed defense lawyers.
(Soundbite of trial)
We reject them, said Saddam and now said he, too was leaving the session. Agdel Rachman countered that he was dismissing Saddam. This went back and forth for a while.
Saddam: I will walk out at will. You are an Iraqi and an Iraqi respects the old. I have been leading you for 35 years and you say, take him out. Shame on you.
Judge: I am the judge and you are the accused. And you have destabilized the order of the session, terribly destabilized the order and I am applying law like a judge should do.
Saddam: I walk out.
Judge: You want to walk out, the court takes you out.
Saddam: Don't say take you out.
Judge: I take you out.
Saddam then left the court with two of the other defendants. Four fairly minor Baath party officials were left behind. The trial continued fairly uneventfully from then on, with three witnesses taking the stand. It will reconvene on Wednesday, but it's unclear if Saddam or his lawyers will appear.
In an interview with CNN, Negeev al-Nuami(ph), one of Saddam's attorneys, said they are demanding an apology from the new judge and are threatening to boycott the proceedings.
Mr. Al-NUAMI (Attorney for Saddam Hussein): He's not impartial, he's not independent and this procedure is absolutely wrong.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: This turmoil follows weeks of uncertainty, delays and criticism. The first chief judge, Rizgar Amin, resigned two weeks ago after being accused of excessive leniency. His deputy was removed after a special commission said that he had links to Saddam's Baath party. Human Rights Watch has expressed its deep concerns over the U.S.-sponsored court's independence from political pressure.
From his home in Kurdistan, the man who headed the court for months weighed in with his thoughts. When asked what he thought about the day's events, Rizgar Amin said, I am happy that I am no longer part of this trial. I am happy to watch it on television while sitting in my house.
Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Baghdad.
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