Saddam trial hearing resumes

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The court in the Saddam Hussein trial allowed Ramsey Clark and another foreign defence lawyer to address the session today, reversing a ruling which led to a defence walkout.

After a 90-minute recess, Chief Judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin allowed Clark and ex-Qatari Justice Minister Najib al-Nueimi to speak on the questions of the legitimacy of the tribunal and safety of the lawyers.

"Reconciliation is essential," Clark told the court. "This trial can divide or heal. Unless it is seen as absolutely fair, and fair in fact, it will divide rather than reconcile Iraq."

At that point the judge reminded Clark that he was to speak only about the security guarantees for the defence lawyers - two of whom have been assassinated since the trial began on 19 October.

Clark then said all parties were entitled to protection and the measures offered to protect the defence and their families were "absurd." Clark said that without such protection, the judicial system would collapse.

Al-Nueimi then spoke about the legitimacy issue, arguing that court is not independent and was in fact set up under the US-led occupation rather than by a legal Iraqi government. He said the language of the statute was unchanged from that promulgated by former US Gov. L. Paul Bremer and was therefore "illegitimate."