The last phase of the Saddam Hussein's trial on charges of crimes against humanity over the killing of Shiites was resumed Monday without the deposed Iraqi leader in court.
The only defendant present for the session, expected to hear the start of closing defense arguments, was a minor Baath party official from the village of Dujail where Saddam and his co-defendants are accused of killing 148 Shiites.
Saddam's lawyers had said before the new hearing that they needed more time to plan their final statements, especially in the wake of the assassination of key defense team member Khamis al-Obeidi last month. "I deeply deplore the assassination of lawyer Khamis al-Obeidi," chief judge Rauf Abdel Rahman said at the start of the hearing, according to AFP. "The court strongly denounces any attempts on the lives of lawyers as these crimes do not serve justice."
Chief prosecutor Jaafar al-Mussawi has noted the last phase of the trial "may take two to three days but no more".
If convicted, Saddam and others will face execution by hanging.