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Last Updated: Monday, 28 November 2005, 18:59 GMT
Deathbed evidence at Saddam trial
Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein made a series of complaints to the judge
Saddam Hussein's trial has heard its first witness testimony, from a now deceased former Iraqi intelligence officer on a pre-recorded video.

Wadah Ismael al-Sheik investigated the 1982 assassination attempt which triggered the alleged massacre in Dujail upon which the trial is based.

A defiant Saddam Hussein and seven co-accused were in court. All eight deny charges of murder and torture.

The trial has been adjourned for a week, until 5 December.

I don't want you to alert them! I want you to order them. They are in our country. You are an Iraqi, you are sovereign and they are foreigners, invaders, and occupiers
Saddam Hussein

The prosecution says 148 people, mostly men, were killed in the largely Shia town, some 60km (35 miles) north of Baghdad, after a failed assassination attempt against the former leader.

In his testimony, taped before his recent death from cancer, Mr Sheikh said about 400 people were detained after the ambush, which was estimated to have been carried out by between seven and 12 assailants.

A day after the attack, whole families were rounded up and taken to Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, he said.

A year later they were moved to another detention centre in the south of the country, Mr Sheikh added.

Defiant defendant

Mr Sheikh noted that Saddam Hussein had decorated intelligence officers who had taken part in the operation.

He also spoke of Saddam's former Vice-President Taha Yassin Ramadan, saying that he had ordered the destruction of orchards in Dujail, where the gunmen who attacked the convoy had hidden.

Man holding photo of Dujail victim
148 people are believed to have been killed in Dujail
The testimony came after Saddam Hussein made another defiant appearance in the specially built courtroom in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone.

The eight defendants, who could face execution if convicted, entered the courtroom one at a time and took their seats.

Saddam Hussein was the last to be called. There was a long wait before he finally emerged, dressed in a dark suit and white shirt.

Heated exchange

On the orders of Chief Judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin none of them were wearing shackles or handcuffs.

During his previous court appearance Saddam Hussein initially refused to recognise the authority of the judge before eventually entering his not guilty plea.

The trial is a farce and can only serve to give him a platform from which to claim martyrdom
William Allen, Belfast, N Ireland

He was similarly argumentative on Monday, complaining about the fact that he had to climb four floors to the courtroom because the lift was broken.

He also objected to being escorted up the stairs by "foreign guards".

In a series of heated exchanges with the judge he also complained about the fact that his guards had taken his pen away, rendering him unable to sign the necessary court papers.

"I will alert them to the problem," Judge Amin said in response.

Saddam Hussein fired back: "I don't want you to alert them! I want you to order them. They are in our country. You are an Iraqi, you are sovereign and they are foreigners, invaders, and occupiers."

One of the defendants, Awad Hamad al-Bandar - a judge in Saddam Hussein's Revolutionary Court - who is accused of ordering the deaths of many people in Dujail, himself complained from the dock on Monday that his life had been threatened by someone who was in the courtroom.

Saddam Hussein's life had been threatened too, he said.

Safety fears

At least four defence lawyers failed to turn up, although Saddam Hussein's lawyer did attend.

It is not clear why the missing lawyers did not appear nor which defendants they represent.

Defence lawyers had threatened to completely boycott Monday's proceedings, following the assassination of two of their colleagues and death threats against others.

US left-wing activist Ramsey Clark

But they later withdrew their threat after undisclosed promises were made regarding their security arrangements.

Just before the trial began at least one mortar was fired into the Green Zone where the trial is taking place, the BBC's John Leyne in Baghdad says.

Former US attorney general Ramsey Clark, an outspoken critic of the trial, was seated alongside the defence team.

Mr Clark, 77, later told the BBC that the trial could not proceed under existing security arrangements for Saddam Hussein's defence team and witnesses.

"There's no adequate protection for them whatsoever - they've got families that they have to worry about, they've got investigators that have to go to difficult and dangerous places to find evidence, information, how do they keep them alive?" he said.

"They're going to have to call hundreds of witnesses in all these cases - how do you ask a witness to come when you risk death?"

The left-wing activist, who held office in the 1960s under President Lyndon Johnson, has previously described the special tribunal as a creation of the US military occupation.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
See Saddam Hussein in his latest court appearance



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