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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 December 2005, 14:58 GMT
Saddam more calm as trial resumes
A witness, called Hassan, at the trial of Saddam Hussein
A witness stood near Saddam Hussein, describing his fear
Saddam Hussein has returned to the dock in Baghdad more co-operative than on previous appearances, interrupting rarely - once to ask for time to pray.

The judge denied him a break, but the former leader appeared to pray anyway, turning his chair to face Mecca.

The court heard from a man who said his entire family of 43 was rounded up and tortured after a failed attempt to kill Saddam Hussein in Dujail in 1982.

Saddam Hussein and seven others deny ordering a massacre of 148 villagers.

All eight were in court, with only the former president's half-brother, Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, seriously disrupting proceedings.

The former head of intelligence interrupted a witness to call him a dog and his dead brothers rotting dogs.

Guards made moves to remove the unruly defendant, but the judge allowed him to stay.

Saddam Hussein could be hanged if found guilty.

Also on Wednesday

  • The US military announced a soldier had been killed by a roadside bomb on Monday.

  • The Iraqi electoral commission said turnout was about 70% in last week's parliamentary elections.

'I was terrified'

Wednesday's court session was the first since millions of Iraqis voted in the elections.

Saddam Hussein and his co-defendants on trial in Baghdad

Saddam Hussein interrupted as the first witness, Ali Mohammed Hussan al-Haydari, began giving testimony.

Later, though, the former Iraqi leader sat quietly as the witness described how some of his brothers were shot by security forces, and he and his family were taken to Baath Party headquarters.

"I saw my brother being tortured in front of my eyes," said Mr Haydari, who was then 14 years old.

"I was terrified. They would take one of us away and he would return in a sheet, dripping in blood."

He said guards administered electric shocks to prisoners and dripped hot plastic onto their skins.

And he said Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti had kicked him while he was in prison - a rare bit of testimony personally implicating a member of Saddam Hussein's inner circle.

The defendant denied the accusation.

Witness in open

Several of the defendants questioned Mr Haydari about his evidence, but the judge frequently had to tell them to direct their questions through him, or to stick to the point.

Several witnesses have already described their version of events at Dujail.

Some spoke from behind a curtain, giving graphic testimony of torture in Iraqi prisons, but Mr Haydari stood in open view only a few yards from Saddam Hussein in the dock.

Saddam's trial cannot be fair, not when he is being tried by a kangaroo court
Mwila Munkonge, Lusaka, Zambia

The judge rejected a prosecution appeal to bar foreign lawyers from Saddam Hussein's multi-national legal team.

The trial resumed amid fresh concerns over the team's security.

Ramsey Clark, a former US attorney general on Saddam Hussein's team, has not returned to Baghdad for this session because of security fears.

Defence lawyer and former Qatari Justice Minister Najib al-Nuami raised further concerns in court, complaining: "We were threatened at the airport and later put up in a house with no door to the lavatory."

"We cannot continue with this case if there is deficiency in security," he told judge Rizkar Amin.

Two defence lawyers were killed shortly after the start of the trial.

Iraq's former leader boycotted the proceedings the last time the court convened, calling the court "unjust".

The ousted president is expected to face further charges relating to his tenure as Iraqi leader.

The court was scheduled to hear the testimony of five new witnesses on Wednesday, but not all may be called to give evidence.

The case may continue on Thursday, but is then expected to be adjourned until mid-January to allow for the results of Iraq's election and the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.

Background to the trial

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