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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 February 2006, 11:59 GMT
Saddam trial faces fresh delays
Empty chairs in the dock
The dock that dominates the courtroom stood empty on Thursday
The trial of Saddam Hussein has been halted until 13 February after briefly being resumed with none of the eight defendants in court.

The only three who had not already been boycotting the trial were barred on Thursday for disorderly behaviour.

Defence lawyers have also been refusing to appear, accusing the Kurdish chief judge of bias against the defendants.

Saddam Hussein and his co-defendants are accused of the 1982 killings of 148 Shia villagers - charges they deny.

The total no-show in court followed Wednesday's session, when just three of the defendants sat in front of the chief judge, Raouf Abdul Rahman.

He has taken a firm line with the defendants since taking the reins at the trial.

He did not ask Saddam Hussein and his protesting co-defendants to attend court on Thursday, and barred the others for what he called chaotic behaviour outside the courtroom.

The trial was adjourned after hearing evidence from two witnesses.

Harrowing

The defence argues that the judge cannot maintain impartiality because his home town of Halabja was famously attacked with poison gas by Iraqi forces in 1988.

Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein has been on trial since last October

Among the missing on Wednesday 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.

The efficient court proceedings on Wednesday contrasted with Sunday's, when Saddam Hussein and two other defendants walked out of the courtroom and another was dragged out. The entire defence team subsequently left in protest.

On Wednesday the court heard five prosecution witnesses.

It included some of the most dramatic and harrowing narrative heard in the court so far. A woman described how she was arrested by Saddam Hussein's security forces and tortured in prison.

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

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.



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