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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 December 2005, 19:47 GMT
'Americans tortured me' - Saddam
Saddam Hussein in court

Saddam Hussein has been beaten and tortured by the Americans, he has alleged at his trial in Baghdad.

"I have been beaten on every place of my body, and the signs are all over my body," he told the court.

A White House spokesman rejected the charge, saying it was one of the most "preposterous" things Saddam Hussein had said recently.

Iraq's ex-leader is on trial over the killing of 148 people in a Shia village in 1982. He denies responsibility.

The sound feed to the television coverage - being seen across Iraq - was cut several times during his outburst, the BBC's Quil Lawrence reports from Baghdad.

This has been seen as an attempt to keep Saddam Hussein from upstaging the testimony of the witnesses who claimed today that they were tortured at the hands of the former regime, he says.

For God's sake, if you are going to execute me, take me out and execute me!
Anonymous witness

The prosecution gave little credence to the former president's claim he had been tortured, saying he was being held in an air-conditioned room when some of Baghdad had no power.

Chief prosecutor Jaafar Mousawi said the claims would be investigated and that he would ask for Saddam Hussein to be transferred to Iraqi custody if there was any truth to them.

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.

Witnesses speak out

Saddam Hussein had spent much of the day listening quietly as three witnesses testified against him and seven associates.

Two of them said Saddam Hussein's half-brother Barzan al-Tikriti - a former intelligence chief who is also on trial - had been present when they were tortured.

Saddam Hussein and his co-defendants on trial in Baghdad

One described how his entire family of 43 was rounded up and imprisoned.

Ali Mohammed Hussan al-Haydari was one of few witnesses who has testified publicly during the on-again, off-again trial that began two months ago.

Two other witnesses testified behind screens.

The witnesses told of intelligence agents shocking people with electricity and pouring melted plastic on people's flesh.

One said he had been tortured three times at intelligence headquarters, then sent to Abu Ghraib prison for over a year before being exiled to the desert for months.

After he was allowed to return home, he was seized afresh by intelligence agents and kept in solitary confinement until he pleaded with them to kill him.

"For God's sake, if you are going to execute me, take me out and execute me!"

Death penalty

Iraq's former leader had appeared to accept the court proceedings in the morning after boycotting an earlier sitting, calling the court "unjust".

HAVE YOUR SAY
We should never judge Saddam by his own values, we need to use the best system available
William Maclean, Salamanca, Spain

But late in the afternoon, he delivered a lengthy, rambling statement in which he claimed he and his co-defendants had been abused by their American jailers.

The case is due to 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.

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

Saddam Hussein could be hanged if found guilty.



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