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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 June 2006, 15:34 GMT 16:34 UK
Judge cuts short Saddam defence
Judge Rauf Abdel Rahman
The judge said he had heard enough from the defence
The chief judge overseeing the trial of ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has ruled that no more defence witnesses can be called to give evidence.

Judge Rauf Abdel Rahman adjourned the case until Monday, when he said closing arguments would begin.

"You've presented 62 witnesses. If that's not enough to present your case, then 100 won't work," he said.

Saddam Hussein and seven co-defendants are being tried in Baghdad for crimes against humanity.

They are charged in connection with the deaths of 148 Shia villagers in the 1980s.

On Tuesday afternoon Chief Judge Abdel Rahman told defence lawyers: "I've finished hearing witnesses. God willing, it will all end fine."

Defence lawyer Khamis al-Obeidi replied: "God willing."

Defence 'rushed'

The defence team has complained that it has not been allowed sufficient time to prepare and present its case.

But as he opened proceedings, the chief judge reprimanded the team for indulging in "endless rhetoric".

Saddam Hussein in court
Saddam Hussein could face the death penalty if convicted

US lawyer Curtis Doebbler complained on Monday that the defence was "at a serious disadvantage" because of the disproportionate time given to the defence.

The trial began in October and prosecution witnesses appeared between December and May. The defence has only had 10 courts session over about a month in which to make its case.

"We want to work for justice, but that can only happen by having a fair trial and, under the current circumstances, that doesn't seem possible," Mr Doebbler said.

Some of the final witnesses to appear in the trial were some former bodyguards for Saddam Hussein.

They testified that, following the attempted assassination of the former Iraqi president in the town of Dujail in 1982, he had ordered them not to shoot back in case ordinary people were hurt.

"The president said there could be someone innocent in [the orchards] who could be hit by your firing, so stop shooting," recalled one of the bodyguards.

Legal concerns

One of Saddam Hussein's seven co-defendants, his half-brother Barzan al-Tikriti, was barred from court on Tuesday, having been thrown out the day before.

The former Iraqi intelligence chief had called the judge a "dictator".

Judge Abdel Rahman said at the beginning of proceedings on Tuesday: "We have decided to exclude Barzan from today's session because of his repeated violations of the court rules."

Following closing statements by defence and prosecution lawyers, the judges will retire to consider their verdict.

Conduct of the trial has been criticised by international legal experts and has been marred by the killing of two defence lawyers and the resignation of the first chief judge in January.

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