Saddam's lawyers boycott trial
(The Australian news) - Saddam Hussein has returned to court in Baghdad for the latest hearing in his trial for genocide against ethnic Kurds but his defence lawyers have stayed away in protest after the chief judge was fired, reports Trend.
New chief judge Mohammed al-Ureybi, who had ordered the ousted president from the court at the last hearing on Wednesday, got proceedings off to a quiet start, with a Kurdish man in his 70s giving evidence about events in the late 1980s.
Lawyers for Saddam and his six co-defendants said on Sunday they would stay away from the court, partly in protest at the Iraqi government's sacking of the chief judge last week.
The defence team stormed out of Wednesday's hearing and the chief defence lawyer said on Sunday it would "suspend attending the trial sessions in protest at the judge's behaviour".
"The court is committing intolerable mistakes - overtly interfering in the trial procedure and removing and replacing judges," Khalil al-Dulaimi said.
Saddam and his cousin Ali Hassan al-Majeed, dubbed "Chemical Ali" over alleged gas attacks, face genocide charges for what prosecutors say are the deaths of 180,000 Kurds, some poisoned with chemical gas.
Five others face charges of murder and crimes against humanity; all seven face hanging if convicted
The defence team walked out of the last hearing, on Wednesday, as soon as the month-old trial resumed with a new judge, after the government had sacked judge Abdullah al-Amiri.
The government said Mr Amiri was biased because he had said the previous week that Saddam was "not a dictator".
When Saddam's lawyers left the room, new chief judge Muhammed al-Ureybi ejected the ex-leader from the courtroom for protesting, and continued the trial with court-appointed lawyers and Saddam's six co-defendants.
International legal rights groups criticised the sacking of the judge, saying it would hurt the legitimacy of the outcome of the historic trial.
But prosecutors said the original judge was allowing Saddam - permitted under Iraqi law to address his accusers directly on a daily basis - to intimidate frightened witnesses. At one hearing he told his accusers he would "crush their heads".
The trial is the second Saddam has faced.
A verdict in a year-old trial for crimes against humanity over the killing of 148 Shi'ites is expected next month. The first chief judge in that trial quit in protest against political interference.