Saddam Hussein and his former intelligence chief Barzan Ibrahim can testify on behalf of one of their co-defendants in their trial on charges of crimes against humanity, the chief judge confirmed Wednesday.
At the beginning of the session, chief judge Raouf Abdel-Rahman had dismissed defendant Taha Yassin Ramadan's request that Saddam and Ibrahim be allowed to testify on his behalf. Ramadan is accused of helping direct a crackdown in the town of Dujail and organizing the razing of farmlands there. "I know no one from Dujail. Should I go there and ask around for people who can confirm that I was there or not? My witnesses are here with us," he said.
One of his lawyers asked the judge "to allow us to pose some questions to Saddam and Ibrahim," and Abdel-Rahman replied, "OK, you will be allowed."
After hearing nine defense witnesses on behalf of three low-level defendants in the case, the court adjourned until Monday.
Putting Saddam on the stand would allow the prosecution to cross-examine him, although the judge may limit their questions to his testimony on Ramadan's role in the crackdown.
Saddam was joking with the judge when a low-level defendant - Mohammed Azawi Ali, a former Baath Party official in Dujail - shouted that he had nothing to do with the crackdown. "Dujail's residents are known for their hot blood," Saddam said of Ali, drawing a smile from Abdel-Rahman.
Saddam and his half-brother complained Wednesday about having to shuttle back and forth from their prison cells to the court sessions. "We want to stay here," said Saddam, according to AFP. "There is no reason to keep making us go back and forth all the time," he added. Barzan said "Besides, we are made to wear a helmet and bullet-proof vest during transport. That's fine for young people in good shape."