The trial of Saddam Hussein was thrown into further confusion and chaos on Wednesday when the former Iraqi leader refused to attend. Four hours after the hearings were supposed to have begun, he had still failed to appear and the judge opened the session as Saddam's co-defendants and his lawyers were present.
Saddam and seven other co-defendants are on trial for crimes against humanity and the murder of some 140 residents of the Iraqi town of Dujail in 1982.
Officially, the trial can proceed even in the absence of Saddam, but the chief judge was reportedly eager for Saddam to appear. Defense lawyers were reportedly discussing how to handle the absence of the 68-year-old defendant, according to Reuters. After testimony from one witness, the trial was adjourned until Dec. 21.
On Tuesday, Saddam told the judge to "Go to hell", saying he would not attend an illegal court.
Saddam and his defense team have claimed that the trial is illegitimate, since the court, and Iraq's current leadership, are also illegitimate.
Five witnesses testified on Tuesday, saying that they had been jailed after an assassination attempt on Saddam in Dujail in 1982. Their voices had been altered and they appeared behind screens to ensure their physical safety.
International human rights observers have raised concerns about witness protection in the case.
Some observers in the court said that witnesses' evidence was confused and inconsistent, and voiced doubts about the strength of the Dujail case. The UN human rights chief in Iraq says he doubts that the trial could meet international standards.
© 2005 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )