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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 February 2006, 17:39 GMT
Saddam fails to appear in court
Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein has been on trial since last October
Saddam Hussein's trial has resumed in open session without the chief defendant or any defence lawyers.

Just three of eight defendants attended proceedings, and a court-appointed defence team was installed.

The regular defence team wants the Kurdish chief judge to quit, saying he is not impartial as his home town of Halabja was hit by poison gas in 1988.

The ex-Iraqi leader and seven others are on trial for the 1982 killings of 148 Shia villagers - charges they deny.

The trial, which resumed on Wednesday after a delay and a closed session blamed by court officials on "procedural issues", has been adjourned until Thursday.

Of the eight seats in the centre of the court usually occupied by Saddam Hussein and his co-defendants, just three were taken when legal arguments began.

The BBC's Jonny Dymond, at the trial, says it is within the court's power to compel the defendants to attend but the chief judge seemed not to care overmuch whether they were there or not.

Among the missing were the most senior defendants: Saddam Hussein's half-brother Barzan al-Tikriti, former Vice-President Taha Yassin Ramadan and ex-judge Awad Hamed al-Bandar.

Boycott threat

The court heard five prosecution witnesses, among them a woman who testified that she was arrested by Saddam Hussein's security forces and tortured in prison.

Judge Rahman
Judge Rahman said from the start that he would not tolerate outbursts

She said she was stripped naked, hung by her feet and kicked repeatedly in the chest by then intelligence chief Barzan al-Tikriti, the Associated Press news agency reports.

Earlier, defence lawyer Khalil Dulaimi issued a statement saying his team would "boycott the trial" until their demands were met.

Mr Dulaimi set out 11 conditions for the defence to end its boycott, including moving the trial "to a country which can offer security".

Saddam Hussein and two other defendants left the courtroom on Sunday, with one dragged out. The entire defence team subsequently left in protest.

Judge Raouf Abdul Rahman replaced Rizgar Amin as chief justice after he resigned in January over criticism that he had been too lenient towards the defendants, allowing them to dictate proceedings and thus letting the trial descend into chaos.

The new chief judge says he wants to get on with the trial and will not tolerate disruption.

He took a much stronger line than his predecessor on Sunday, stating that he would not tolerate any defendants making political speeches or disobeying his authority.

The defendants could face the death penalty if convicted of the killings, which followed an assassination attempt on Saddam Hussein in the village of Dujail.

See Saddam Hussein in a previous court appearance


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