Saddam calls Iraqis to fight US occupation
Former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein gave his first formal testimony on Wednesday in the trial against him and seven other codefendants, reportedly calling the court a "comedy against Saddam Hussein and his comrades,"according to Reuters.
Saddam called on Iraqis to stop a bloody wave of sectarian violence and instead fight the American occupation, prompting the chief judge to close the courtroom after declaring Saddam was making political speeches.
Even as the judge repeatedly yelled at Saddam to stop, the former leader read from a prepared text, insisting he was still Iraq's president. "Let the (Iraqi) people unite and resist the invaders and their backers. Don't fight among yourselves," he said. "In my eyes, you are the resistance to the American invasion."
"What pains me most is what I heard recently about something that aims to harm our people," Saddam said. "My conscience tells me that the great people of Iraq have nothing to do with these acts."
Chief judge Raouf Abdel-Rahman interrupted, saying Saddam was not allowed to deliver political speeches in the court. "I am the head of state," Saddam replied. "You used to be a head of state. You are a defendant now," Abdel-Rahman barked at Saddam.
The judge repeatedly turned off his microphone to prevent his words from being heard and told him to address the charges against him. But Saddam ignored the judge and continued reading from his text.
"You are being tried in a criminal case. Stop your political speech," Abdel-Rahman shouted. "Had it not been for politics I wouldn't be here," Saddam replied.
He went on, urging Iraqis not to fight each other. "What happened in the last days is bad," he said. "You will live in darkness and rivers of blood for no reason."
He continued: "The bloodshed that they (the occupiers) have caused to the Iraqi people only made them more intent and strong to evict the foreigners from their land and liberate their country."
At one point, Abdel-Rahman screamed at him, "Respect yourself!" Saddam shouted back: "You respect yourself!"
"You are being tried in a criminal case for killing innocent people, not because of your conflict with America," Abdel-Rahman said. Saddam responded, "What about the innocent people who are dying in Baghdad? I am talking to the Iraqi people."
Finally, Abdel-Rahman ordered the session closed to the public, telling journalists to leave the court. The delayed video feed also was cut. "The court has decided to turn this into a secret and closed session," he said.
The dramatic trial resumed earlier in the day with Saddam's half-brother, Barzan Al Tikriti taking the stand. Under Saddam, Tikriti had served as Iraq's intelligence chief, and was considered one of the most feared men in the country.
Tikriti testified in the courtroom on his own behalf, according to Reuters, against charges that he had committed crimes against humanity in 1982 as a result of his connection to the killing of 148 people in the Iraqi town of Dujail. He denied he took part in crackdown.
Ibrahim, according to the AP, told chief judge Raouf Abdel-Rahman that he was in Dujail on the day of the July 8, 1982 shooting attack on Saddam's motorcade and the following day but has not visited the Shiite village since then. He added the General Security agency handled the investigation into the shooting incident. He claimed he ordered the release of Dujail residents who had been arrested. "I chided the security and party officials for detaining those people," he said "I shook their (the released detainees') hands and let them go."
Reading from a statement, Ibrahim said he has been badly treated since his arrest by American forces in April 2003. He also said he has asked for the past two years for medical tests "but no one has listened to me."
The 1982 attack on the Shiite town followed an assassination attempt on Saddam. Tikriti, Saddam and five others are charged with the ensuing attack on Dujail.
If charged, the defendants may face the death penalty.
The trial has been marred by repeated interruptions due to disorder in the court, charges of courtroom bias against defendants, the killing of court attorneys and subsequent departure of others, and the replacement of the court's judge.
© 2006 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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