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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 February 2006, 19:48 GMT
Saddam in 'hunger strike' protest
Saddam's half brother Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti dressed in his underwear
Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti wore long white underwear in protest
Deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has told a Baghdad court that he and his seven co-accused are on hunger strike in protest at their treatment.

"We have been on a hunger strike for three days," Saddam Hussein declared as he appeared in the courtroom.

The session, which ran for about three hours, heard testimony from three former regime officials. The trial has been adjourned until 28 February.

The defendants deny charges over the 1982 massacre of 148 people in Dujail.

The first witness to take the stand was a former intelligence officer who testified from behind a curtain to protect his identity.

For three days we have been holding a hunger strike protesting against your way in treating us
Saddam Hussein

Saddam Hussein's half-brother and co-defendant Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti cross-examined the witness briefly, then launched into a largely uninterrupted speech for almost 30 minutes, denying any connection to the massacre.

He attended court dressed for a second day in his long underwear to signal his rejection of the court.

'Unable to read'

The second witness was another intelligence official, Fadil Mohammed al-Azzawi.

He complained that he was there against his will and could not offer any testimony.

"I reject being a witness in this case because I do not have information... I was forced to come to court," he said.

Mr Azzawi also said he had only signed a previous witness statement because he had not had his glasses with him and had been unable to read it.

A former culture minister, and personal aide to Saddam Hussein, Hamed Youssef Hamadi also appeared.

He was shown a piece of paper recommending rewards for six officials for their part in the Dujail arrests bearing the hand-written word "agreed".

When asked to identify the handwriting Mr Hamadi said: "It looks like President Saddam's."

At the start of the session, Saddam Hussein shouted in praise of the Iraqi people, saying "Long live the great Arab nation" and "long live the mujahideen," before taking his seat.

The former leader was wearing the dark suit he usually reserves for court appearances, rather than the traditional Arab dress he adopted on Monday.

He once more denounced the court as a puppet of the US and said he and his co-defendants had begun the hunger strike to protest against their treatment.

Unwilling witnesses

Monday saw two other former aides to Saddam Hussein refusing to testify against him.

Former head of the presidential office Ahmed Khudayir and ex-intelligence chief Hassan al-Obeidi both said they had been brought against their will.

The prosecution made an attempt to link Saddam and other senior members of his Baath Party regime to the Dujail massacre through documentary evidence.

The lawyers produced execution orders said to be signed by the former president.

The defendants had vowed not to appear in court until the return of their lawyers, who are calling for the removal of Judge Raouf Abdul Rahman and boycotting the proceedings.

The new chief judge took over last month after the resignation of his predecessor Rizgar Amin and has adopted a more hardline approach to the defendants.

Watch Saddam Hussein's outburst in court


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