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Sunday, January 29, 2006

 

AP: Lawyers walk out, Saddam ejected - Jan. 29

By HAMZA HENDAWI, Associated Press Writer -- 2 hours, 3 minutes ago

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Saddam Hussein's trial quickly collapsed into chaos after resuming Sunday with one defendant dragged out of court and the defense team walking out in protest. The former Iraqi leader was then ejected after shouting "down with traitors" and "down with America."

Former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein sits alone as his co-defendants, unseen, arrive in court for their trial held under tight security in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone, Sunday Jan. 29, 2006.  The troubled Saddam Hussein trial resumed Sunday with a new judge after a dispute on the court was patched over, though worries remained over whether political interference is threatening the tribunal's independence. The resumption had been delayed for nearly a week when some judges on the five-member panel hearing the trial opposed the appointment of Raouf Abdel-Rahman as the presiding judge. Saddam and his seven co-defendants are charged in the deaths of about 140 Shiite Muslims following an assassination attempt against the former Iraqi leader in the Shiite town of Dujail in 1982.   (AP Photo/David Furst, pool)Former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, left, sits alone as his co-defendants, unseen, arrive in court for their trial held under tight security in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone, Sunday Jan. 29, 2006. The troubled Saddam Hussein trial resumed Sunday with a new judge after a dispute on the court was patched over, though worries remained over whether political interference is threatening the tribunal's independence. The resumption had been delayed for nearly a week when some judges on the five-member panel hearing the trial opposed the appointment of Raouf Abdel-Rahman as the presiding judge. Saddam and his seven co-defendants are charged in the deaths of about 140 Shiite Muslims following an assassination attempt against the former Iraqi leader in the Shiite town of Dujail in 1982. (AP Photo/David Furst, pool)

The new chief judge in the trial, Raouf Abdel-Rahman, sought to show tough control over the court. He was appointed in a shake-up sparked when his predecessor resigned this month after complaints that he was not doing enough to rein in Saddam's frequent courtroom outbursts.

But the stormy session Sunday -- the first in a month -- will likely increase doubts over the trial's fairness, already raised by the shake-up that brought in Abdel-Rahman.

After a defense lawyer was removed, the entire defense team left in protest as the judge shouted after them, "Any lawyer who walks out will not be allowed back into this courtroom."

Abdel-Rahman appointed four new defense lawyers. But two other defendants, Taha Yassin Ramadan and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, said they opposed the appointment and demanded to leave. They were escorted out.

The proceedings resumed with only four of the eight defendants present, and none of their original lawyers. The court began hearing an anonymous female prosecution witness, who testified from behind a light blue curtain, as several earlier witnesses have done to protect them from reprisals.

The chaos began within 15 minutes of the session's start. After the judge's opening statement, Saddam's co-defendant Barzan Ibrahim stood and asked to address the court. Abdel-Rahman, who had already shouted at one defense lawyer for interrupting, told him to make his point quickly. Ibrahim called the court "the daughter of a whore."

At this point, the delayed television feed showing the proceedings was cut off. The video, which is controlled by the judges, resumed some time later, cutting out the removal of Ibrahim and the subsequent fight with the lawyers but showing the judge's arguments with Saddam.

After Ibrahim's outburst, the judge ordered him to sit down, shouting, "One more word and I'm throwing you out." When Ibrahim refused to sit, two burly guards grabbed him by the arms and after some pushing and shoving, dragged him out of the court.

As they scuffled, Saddam stood and shouted, "Down with the traitors. Down with America." Defense lawyers began shouting as well. "Is this a street demonstration, are you lawyers?" Abdel-Rahman barked at them.

The judge turned to defense lawyer, Salih al-Armouti, a Jordanian who recently joined the team, and said, "Can you do this in your own courts in your country?"

"My country gives me my rights," al-Armouti replied.

Abdel-Rahman ordered guards to take al-Armouti out of the court, saying, "You have incited your clients and we will start criminal proceedings against you." When al-Armouti was removed, the rest of the defense team left in protest.

Saddam then stood and said he wanted to leave the court. "You do not leave, I allow you to leave when I want to," Abdel-Rahman said.

"I was the president for 35 years," Saddam replied.

"I am the judge and you are the defendant," the judge said. Two guards pushed Saddam by his shoulders back into his chair, but then the judge ordered them to lead him out of the room.

Abdel-Rahman came into the session aiming to impose control on a trial that has been plagued by delays and frequent outbursts by Saddam and Ibrahim, who is Saddam's half brother and former intelligence chief.

Heading into Sunday's session, Saddam's defense team said they would file motions questioning the court's independence and legitimacy because of the shake-up among the judges.

Saddam and his seven co-defendants are charged in the deaths of about 140 Shiite Muslims following an assassination attempt against the former Iraqi leader in the Shiite town of Dujail in 1982. The defendants could face death by hanging if convicted.

After the last session on Dec. 22, the court was thrown into confusion when the chief judge hearing the case since the beginning, Rizgar Mohammed Amin, resigned.

Amin cited health reasons for his decision. But politicians had complained about the slow pace of the proceedings and Amin's patience in the face of frequent outbursts by Saddam and Ibrahim.

Amin's deputy, Saeed al-Hammash, had been expected to take over as chief judge but was moved off the case after allegations he once was a member of Saddam's Baath party. Al-Hammash, a Shiite, denied Baath membership and maintained he was the victim of a conspiracy.

Abdel-Rahman — who, like Amin, is a Kurd — was brought in to serve as chief judge. But a new session last Tuesday was canceled at the last minute because some of the judges were angered over the shake-up.

Source: AP-Yahoo News.

Dave Haigler, Abilene, Texas
lawfirm webpage:
www.haigler.info
political blog: http://demlog.blogspot.com

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