[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 December 2005, 14:51 GMT
Saddam Hussein boycotts hearing
Saddan Hussein's empty chair in court
Under Iraqi law, trials can carry on without the defendant present
The trial of Saddam Hussein and seven of his former Baath Party regime colleagues has continued without the former leader in the courtroom.

He boycotted the hearing as a protest against the conditions of his detention and how the trial is being conducted.

On Tuesday the former leader told his judges to "go to hell", vowing that he would not return to an "unjust" court.

The trial, over the 1982 killing of 148 Shia Muslims in Dujail, has now been adjourned until 21 December.

Meanwhile the eight-year-old son of a guard at the trial was abducted from outside his Baghdad home on Wednesday.

It was not immediately clear if the kidnapping was related to the trial.

Thousands of Iraqis, including many children, have been abducted - mainly for money - since the Iraqi leader was ousted in 2003.

In overnight violence, a man arrested on suspicion of plotting to kill the top trial investigator was freed by gunmen from a hospital in Kirkuk.


Saddam Hussein and his co-accused all deny the charges against them and could face the death penalty if convicted.

He should receive the same level of justice as he bestowed on others
JK, Nottingham

Wednesday's hearing resumed four hours late - after wrangling over how to proceed in the face of Saddam's boycott - with evidence from two male witnesses.

Testifying from behind a curtain and with his voice disguised, one man said he had been arrested following the assassination attempt against Saddam in Dujail that prompted the alleged killing of 148 Shias.

He told the court of beatings in a Baghdad intelligence prison and said Saddam's half-brother and co-defendant Barzan al-Tikriti was present at one point.

However, he admitted under questioning that he had been blindfolded and had been told by other detainees that it was Barzan who spoke.

Having been moved to Abu Ghraib jail, he was beaten and saw prisoners being tortured every day, he said.

Another witness described the round-up of people in Dujail saying: "They told us they wanted to speak to us for 10 minutes. We were gone for four and a half years."

'Go to hell!'

According to AFP news agency, as the hearing got under way, Saddam's lawyer Khalil al-Dulaimi stood up to thank the chief judge, Rizgar Mohammed Amin for allowing the trial to continue.

Under Iraqi law the trial can carry on without the defendant present in the courtroom.

Former Iraqi leader in court
Saddam Hussein has frequently denounced the court as unjust
Arrangements may be made for the former president to watch the trial on a closed circuit TV link, with the right to intervene at certain points, possibly via a microphone, BBC world affairs editor John Simpson says.

Previous court sessions have been marked by frequent violent outbursts from the former Iraqi leader, who has complained constantly that the trial is unjust.

At the end of Tuesday's hearing, the former leader shouted at the judge: "I will not return, I will not come to an unjust court! Go to hell!"

This was after the judge ruled that the court would reconvene on the next day to hear two more witnesses, overruling Saddam's lawyers' request for a longer break.

Until now, many observers have felt that Saddam has used his appearances in court to great effect, calling on his followers to continue their fight against the American presence in Iraq and condemning the 2003 invasion again and again.

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.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific