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Last Updated: Sunday, 29 January 2006, 09:03 GMT
Saddam Hussein's trial restarts
Saddam Hussein is court
Saddam Hussein has been on trial since last October
The trial of ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has resumed after a series of delays and difficulties, with a new judge in charge of proceedings.

The court has sat for only seven days since it opened in October in Baghdad.

Judges are facing questions about their competence to hold the trial, amid allegations of political interference.

Saddam Hussein and seven co-defendants are accused of masterminding a massacre in 1982. They could face the death penalty if found guilty.

New presiding judge

Judge Rahman
Judge Rahman ordered Saddam's brother out of the court

The new judge, Raouf Abdul Rahman, immediately stamped his authority on the proceedings by ordering Saddam's half brother and co-defendant Barzan al-Tikriti out of the court when he tried complain about his medical condition.

"Get him out," Judge Rahman said as the defendant was dragged from the court.

The BBC's Nicholas Witchell in Baghdad says there is a growing impression the trial is in disarray.

Only two of the five original five judges remain.

The initial head of the tribunal, Rizgar Amin, resigned last month following accusations from government officials that he was too lenient towards the defendants.

Saddam Hussein and his co-defendants on trial in Baghdad

His deputy was moved aside over allegations that he had been a member of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party.

A third judge had stepped down last year citing a possible conflict of interest.

Judge Rahman is said to have been involved in disagreements with his fellow judges about the conduct of the trial.

Defence lawyers say it is impossible for Saddam Hussein to get a fair trial and predict the trial's imminent collapse.

The defendants last appeared in court on 22 December 2005.

The trial has so far heard harrowing accounts of torture and beatings inflicted on villagers following an assassination attempt on the former leader.

Saddam Hussein and his co-defendants face charges over the 1982 killing of 148 people in the village of Dujail.


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