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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 December 2005, 16:20 GMT
'No evidence' Saddam was tortured
Saddam Hussein and his co-defendants in court
The defendants sometimes refused to sit down
The Iraqi judge who prepared the case against Saddam Hussein says there is no evidence he was beaten in US custody, despite the former leader's claims.

Saddam Hussein has said in court he has been tortured, and accused the US of "lies" for denying it abused him.

His trial has been adjourned until 24 January after three witnesses and a brief closed session on Thursday.

He and seven others face charges over the killing of 148 people in Dujail in 1982. They all deny responsibility.

In Thursday's session, Iraq's former president repeated claims in court that he had been beaten "all over my body" while in US custody.

The US has dismissed the idea as "preposterous".

When I hear that any Iraqi has been hurt, it hurts me too
Saddam Hussein

Saddam Hussein said the US denials could not be believed.

He cited as proof America's pre-war claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and the fact that none were found.

"We don't lie. It is the White House that lies," he told the court.

Investigating magistrate Raed Juhi said Saddam Hussein had never before said he had been mistreated.

"My job requires me to ask each of the defendants if he has been abused, and... I have received no complaints," the judge told reporters on Thursday.

'Grandstanding'

The US said Saddam Hussein was treated very well in custody.

State department spokesman Sean McCormack said his allegations that he was beaten and tortured were "highly ironic".

"Look, he's been given to grandstanding in this trial, but where the focus should be is on the testimony of those people who were victimised.

"That's what people should be listening to."

The BBC's Quil Lawrence in Baghdad says the Iraqi people are more interested in the witness testimony than in Saddam Hussein's allegations.

Supporters of Saddam Hussein rally in Dur, near Tikrit
Supporters of Saddam Hussein rallied as he returned to court
In the courtroom on Thursday, the judge dismissed a guard the defendants said had threatened them.

There was a stand-up row between Saddam's co-defendant Barzan al-Tikriti and a prosecutor, whom he accused of being a former member of the governing Baath party.

The prosecutor called the accusation an insult and asked to be relieved of his duties. The judge refused.

Barzan al-Tikriti - Saddam Hussein's half-brother and former intelligence chief - praised the judge as "brave", "educated" and "smart", but repeatedly defied his order to sit down.

He complained about the trial being televised with a 30-minute delay, which he said was an "undemocratic" means of editing out parts the authorities did not want heard.

He later said he wanted to speak to the judge in private, prompting Rizgar Amin to clear the court. Shortly afterwards, the trial was adjourned until the new year, as expected.

Families taken away

Three witnesses testified on Thursday, speaking from behind a curtain to conceal their identities.

The first said he was eight years old during the killings in Dujail.

He said his grandmother, father and uncles had been arrested and tortured. He said his male relatives were taken away and he never saw them again.

HAVE YOUR SAY
We should never judge Saddam by his own values, we need to use the best system available
William Maclean, Salamanca, Spain

Saddam Hussein said the witness was too young at the time of the incident for his testimony to be reliable.

On Wednesday, witnesses had described being taken away and tortured by Iraqi security forces.

Saddam Hussein said on Thursday that he was sorry to hear accounts of torture.

"When I hear that any Iraqi has been hurt it hurts me too," he said.

"The wrongs that were done to those people were wrong and, according to law, those who did it should get what they deserve."

The ousted president is expected to face further charges relating to his tenure as Iraqi leader and could be hanged if found guilty.



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