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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 September 2006, 15:07 GMT 16:07 UK
Judge orders Saddam out of court
Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein refused to sit down and was ejected from court
Saddam Hussein has been ordered out of court by the new chief judge at his genocide trial in Baghdad.

The former Iraqi leader refused to sit down in protest at the appointment of Muhammad al-Khalifa and was ejected.

The entire team of defence lawyers then walked out as well and the court continued its proceedings without them.

The previous chief judge was replaced after the government accused him of bias towards Saddam Hussein "when he described him as not being a dictator".

The new judge is a Shia Arab who served as deputy presiding judge under his predecessor, Abdullah al-Amiri.

Saddam Hussein and his co-defendants are facing war crimes charges in relation to the Anfal military campaign in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq in the late 1980s.

We want to say that the government is interfering in the trial. We cannot continue with our work fairly
Defence team statement
"The government of Iraq feels the judge is no longer neutral as could be seen when he described Saddam as not being a dictator," a statement by the cabinet said.

Some trial observers criticised what they saw as interference by the government preventing Saddam Hussein from being given a fair trial.

Human Rights Watch legal expert Nehal Bhuta said the judge's removal was "a blatant violation of the independence of the court", in comments quoted by AFP.

A statement by the defence team said they would not return until the government stopped "interfering in the trial".

Continued violence

Problems at the trial come against the backdrop of continuing violence in the insurgency and sectarian strife that has claimed tens of thousands of lives since Saddam Hussein was overthrown in 2003.

Judge Muhammad al-Ureibi orders Saddam Hussein out of court
The new judge is expected to be tougher with the defendants
In northern Iraq, at least 18 people were killed in two bombings near the city of Mosul on Tuesday night.

A car bomb exploded first, in the town of Sharqat, then a suicide bomber detonated his explosives belt as a crowd gathered at the scene of the explosion.

In a separate incident, on Wednesday, at least three people were killed when a suicide bomber drove a truck into a police building in southern Baghdad. At least 10 others were wounded.

Putting Saddam Hussein and former members of his regime on trial was envisioned by the US-led coalition which overthrew him as a way to unify the country and turn a new page for democracy in Iraq.

However, critics say the two trials so far have fallen short of international standards.

Defence lawyers have been murdered and the chief judge in the first trial resigned half-way through, amid reports he had come under pressure from the government to be less "lenient" to the defendants.

Saddam Hussein and six others are on trial for war crimes during the so-called Anfal campaign in which up to 180,000 Kurdish civilians died in the late 1980s.

Saddam Hussein and his cousin, Ali Hassan al-Majid, popularly known in Iraq as Chemical Ali, face additional charges of genocide.




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The new chief judge in court



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