Defence continues at Saddam trial

Iran Materials 16 May 2006 16:05 (UTC +04:00)

(BBC.CO.UK) - The trial of deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and his co-defendants resumed on Tuesday, with further defence witnesses appearing.

The former Iraqi leader was not in court - though three lesser-known defendants were present.

On Monday, the judge read out specific charges against the defendants relating to the killings of Iraqi Shias in 1982, reports Trend.

Saddam Hussein refused to enter a plea, insisting the trial was "no way to treat the president of Iraq".

Saddam Hussein's lawyers complained that their client had not been called to appear in court on Tuesday.

But Judge Rahman said his lawyers were there to respond to anything the witnesses might say in his absence.

The three defendants in court - Abdullah Kadhem Ruaid, his son Mizher and Mohammed Azawi Ali - listened as the unidentified witnesses, concealed behind a curtain, gave evidence.

The three men are all former Baath party officials with responsibility for the Dujail area.

Case for accused The specific charges laid by Chief Judge Raouf Abdel Rahman relate to

the defendants' alleged roles in the crackdown on the town of Dujail in 1982 after a failed assassination attempt on Saddam Hussein.

Saddam Hussein was accused of ordering:

The illegal arrest of 399 people

The torture of women and children

The destruction of farmland

The murder of nine people in the early days of the crackdown

The murder of 148 people in the later phase of the crackdown

If found guilty, he could face the death penalty.

The judge ordered the court to record that Saddam Hussein had denied the charges and then read out charges against the other defendants.

All eight defendants either refused to enter a plea or pleaded not guilty.

Since the trial began in October, the frequently interrupted court sessions have focussed on marshalling evidence against Saddam Hussein and his co-defendants.

Now it is the defence's chance to build its case for each of the accused, starting with the minor figures and building up to Saddam Hussein.

The defence phase is expected to last at least a month.