(AP) - The defense began closing arguments in the trial of Saddam Hussein on Monday after the chief judge condemned the slaying of one of the former leader's top lawyers last month.
A lawyer for Ali Dayih Ali, a lower-level defendant in the case, was the first to deliver his closing. The court will hear lawyers from each of the eight defendants in turn, then statements from each defendant, reports Trend.
Chief judge Raouf Abdel-Rahman opened the session by expressing his regrets for the slaying of Khamis al-Obeidi, one of Saddam's lawyers, who was abducted from his Baghdad home on June 21 and found shot to death hours later on a street near the Shiite slum of Sadr City.
"We announce our deep sorrow and confirm that the court strongly condemns any attack against lawyers or against any of those working in this court," he said.
Saddam's chief lawyer, Khalil al-Dulaimi, was absent from the court along with several other defense lawyers apparently in protest over al-Obeidi's slaying or out of security fears. There were 10 defense lawyers present Monday, some of them appointed by the court for the session.
Al-Obeidi was the third defense lawyer to be killed since the trial began in October. The lawyers have argued that fears over their security have undermined their ability to defend Saddam and the seven other former members of his regime.
The eight are charged with crimes against humanity for a crackdown against Shiites in the town of Dujail launched after a 1982 assassination attempt against Saddam. They are accused of arresting hundreds of people, torturing women and children and killing 148 people sentenced to death for the attack on the former Iraqi leader.
After the defense finishes, the court will adjourn for the judges to consider their verdicts. The eight face possible execution by hanging if convicted, though they have the chance of appeal.
Court officials have said they expect verdicts to be issued before a second trial of Saddam begins on August 21. In that trial, Saddam and six other former members of his regime face charges for the Anfal Campaign in the 1980s that killed an estimated 100,000 Kurds and saw thousands of Kurdish villages razed.