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Hussein forced back to trial

Associated Press
Published February 14, 2006

BAGHDAD - Their protest showed in their clothes.

A disheveled Saddam Hussein gave up his usual suit for a traditional Arab robe and bedroom slippers. His half brother and co-defendant, Barzan Ibrahim, was pulled shouting and struggling into the courtroom in an undershirt.

The troubled trial of Hussein and seven co-defendants resumed Monday in Baghdad with the theatrics, belligerence and shouting matches of days past on display once again - as the tough-talking chief judge forced them to attend despite a defense boycott.

Judge Raouf Abdel-Rahman pressed ahead with the proceedings, allowing Hussein his outbursts but sharply interrupting him when he strayed off-topic or tried grandstanding.

When Ibrahim sat on the floor with his back to the judge, Abdel-Rahman let him stay there, and the former intelligence chief eventually quietly moved to his chair.

In the meantime, prosecutors made their strongest attempt yet to link Hussein directly to killings in the 1980s, presenting execution orders with his signature. They also put on the stand two former members of his regime, including one of his closest aides: Ahmed Hussein Khudayer al-Samarrai, the head of Hussein's presidential office for 16 years.

Twenty-six prosecution witnesses have testified since the Hussein trial began Oct. 19, many providing accounts of torture and imprisonment in a crackdown launched after a 1982 attempt on the Iraqi leader's life in the Shiite town of Dujail.

Hussein and his seven co-defendants are on trial in the killing of nearly 150 Shiite Muslims in Dujail. If convicted, they could face the death penalty by hanging.

But none of the witnesses could directly pin them on Hussein.

The defendants have rejected court-appointed lawyers named to replace their own defense team who walked out of the trial last month and are demanding the removal of Abdel-Rahman. In Jordan, Hussein's chief defense lawyer, Khaled al-Dulaimi, said there were no plans to end the boycott and denounced the court for forcing the former leader to attend.

But Abdel-Rahman has also barred the defense attorneys from attending the trial unless they adhere to proper court decorum, such as wearing judicial robes.

The trial is scheduled to resume today.

Elsewhere in Iraq on Monday, a suicide bomber blew himself up after joining a line of Iraqis waiting for government checks in a mostly Shiite district of Baghdad, killing 10 people and wounding about 40. At least 14 other people were killed nationwide.

And British military police said they had arrested an unidentified man in their investigation of a video that appeared to show British soldiers abusing youths in Iraq.

--Information from the Los Angeles Times was used in this report.

[Last modified February 14, 2006, 02:45:31]

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