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Last Updated: Monday, 5 December 2005, 16:27 GMT
Saddam trial told of 'massacre'
Saddam Hussein and Barzan al-Tikriti in court 5-12-05
Saddam Hussein and his half-brother shouted at the judge
The first witness to speak in person at the trial of ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has spoken of arrests, torture and murder in a Shia village.

Ahmed Hassan Mohammed detailed the killing of 148 people in the village of Dujail, north of Baghdad, in 1982.

The Iraqi forces' torture equipment included a mincing machine sometimes fed with living human bodies, he said.

The trial had resumed after a defence walkout prompted the judge to suspend the proceedings for 90 minutes.

The defence had not been allowed to contest the legitimacy of the process in open court - a decision eventually reversed.

Saddam Hussein and seven former senior Iraqi officials are accused of involvement in the murder of 148 Shia men in the village of Dujail, following an attempt on the former leader's life.

The defendants could face the death penalty if found guilty.

The trial was adjourned until Tuesday, court officials said.

'Doomsday'

Ahmed Hassan Mohammed gave a rambling, emotional and sometimes deeply moving account of suffering, says the BBC's world affairs editor John Simpson, inside the Baghdad courtroom.

Ahmed Hassan Mohammed in court, with Saddam Hussein visible in the background
They broke him. They broke his arms, his legs, and they shot at his feet
Ahmed Hassan Mohammed

He told how women and children were tortured, and said that dead babies were often abandoned in public.

The court heard him describe how one of his friends was killed: "They broke him. They broke his arms, his legs, and they shot at his feet," said the witness.

"People who were arrested were taken to prison and most of them were killed there. The scene was frightening. Even women with babies were arrested.

"It was not Thursday. It was doomsday."

A visibly angry Saddam Hussein argued with the judge, demanding the opportunity to explain his grievances with the process.

"I am not afraid of execution," he declared.

The witness told the court he had seen the bodies of many of his neighbours, and that some of the defendants were at the scene.

Up to 10 witnesses have been lined up to describe the Dujail massacre, some of whom are expected to conceal their identities.

Challenge

Earlier on Monday, the third hearing in the trial started amid chaotic scenes.

Man holding photo of Dujail victim
148 people are believed to have been killed in Dujail
When defence lawyers began questioning the legality of the proceedings, presiding judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin ruled that only written complaints would be considered.

That prompted furious outbursts from Saddam's half-brother Barzan al-Tikriti and another co-defendant, before defence lawyers walked out and the judge suspended the hearing.

After a 90-minute recess he allowed the defence team to state its grievances.

One defence lawyer, former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark, said that unless the trial was seen as "absolutely fair", it would "divide rather than reconcile Iraq".

I'm not sure he will get a fair trial - he has been prejudged as guilty by the superpowers and the media
Alfredos, Accra, Ghana

He also called for more security for the defence team, following the murder of two lawyers in recent weeks.

The defence team has long challenged the legitimacy of the process - which is being conducted by an Iraqi court set up under a mixture of Iraqi and international statutes.

Ahead of Monday's session, one of the five judges stepped down citing a potential conflict of interest, as one of the co-defendants may have been involved in killing his brother.

Another judge was due to replace him.

The previous two hearings led to adjournments, following complaints by the defence that it needed more time to prepare.


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See the angry scenes inside the courtroom



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