Saddam Hussein's trial adjourned

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The Independent Online

The trial of Saddam Hussein and seven co-defendants was adjourned today until 21 December after two witnesses testified in a truncated session which the ousted president refused to attend.



Chief Judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin adjourned the proceedings and said the court would convene again on 21 December following national elections late next week.Saddam kept to a promise made yesterday not to take part in what he called an "unjust" court.

The other defendants and Saddam's lawyers were present in the courtroom when Amin convened the session at 3pm (1200 GMT), about four hours late. Amin said the court would inform Saddam about or brief him on the proceedings that took place during his absence.

The judge then told defence lawyers that "the court will meet with the defence lawyers after today's hearing to discuss the security of the lawyers, " which has become a major issue after two members of the defence team were murdered.

Saddam and the others are charged in the deaths of more than 140 Shiite Muslims in retaliation for an assassination attempt against him in the town of Dujail in 1982. Saddam accused Iran of ordering the attempt on his life.

After the session convened, a male witness testified behind a beige curtain to conceal his identity. The witness, whose name was not released, said he was arrested after the assassination attempt and taken to Baath party headquarters, where he found people "screaming because of the beatings." The witness said Saddam's half brother and co-defendant Barazan Ibrahim was present.

"When my turn came, the investigator asked me my name and he turned to Barazan and asked him 'what we shall do with him?' Barazan replied: 'Take him. He might be useful.' We were almost dead because of the beatings."

Under questioning by the judge, however, the witness said he was blindfolded at the time and thought it was Ibrahim speaking because other prisoners told him so.The witness said he was taken to Baghdad "in a closed crowded van that had no windows."

"When we arrived at the building they asked us to stand along the wall," he said.

"We were told to stand only on one foot and we kept on this position for two hours before we were taken to cells with red walls. I was thirsty but the water was very hot."

After a few days, the witness said, he was moved to "Hall 63" where "we were kept handcuffed for five days with little food and very hot water. They used to take some persons and bring them back naked. The signs of torture were clear on their bodies."

Ibrahim made his own complaints against the court today, saying that he spent more than eight months in solitary confinement in a windowless facility without air conditioning, electricity or running water.

"I couldn't tell if it was day or night," he said.

He said guards would force him and other prisoners to exercise, or punish them when they refused by withholding cigarettes, tea or by reducing food rations."When I was detained I was wearing pajamas that I kept wearing for nine months until my brother came and gave me a dishdasha (traditional robe)," he said. "For one year I did not drink tea or coffee. We had little food. I lost 18 kilogrammes in two months."

Ibrahim said now things are better and they have air conditioning and cold water.

Saddam's threat not to attend today's session came at the end of a daylong session in which five witnesses related the events of a 1982 crackdown on Shiite Muslims.

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