Saddam Hussein’s lawyer ended a one-month courtroom absence Monday, defending his client briefly before getting into another spat with the judge and leaving again.
Hussein and six codefendants face charges of genocide in the 1988 killings of tens of thousands of Iraqi Kurds by firing squad and chemical warfare. Most of the victims were civilians, including women and children.
Citing disagreements with Judge Mohammed Orabi Khalefa, the defendants’ privately retained attorneys stormed out of the Baghdad courtroom Sept. 26.
They were replaced by court-appointed lawyers.
Lawyer Khalil Dulaimi and another defense attorney returned before the judge Monday, complaining about his decision not to allow non-Arab lawyers to represent the defendants and denying access to what they say is key evidence.
“If you do not” uphold these complaints, Dulaimi told the judge, “we will continue our boycott of the court to prove to the world that this is a political trial and not a legal process.”
“You may walk out,” the judge replied to the attorney, who then left.
Hussein’s team of lawyers has periodically refused to cooperate with the court, arguing that the forum is little more than a political show trial and an American-backed propaganda effort.
Hussein stood and spoke, questioning the judge’s adherence to the court’s own rules. The former Iraqi president said he didn’t have to accept the court-appointed lawyers, based on his reading of the law.
“The article does not oblige or necessitate for the so-called defendants to accept the attorney mandated by the tribunal, in spite of their unwillingness themselves to do so,” said Hussein, who studied law in Cairo. “The article, however, necessitates for the tribunal to mandate an attorney for the defendant who is unable to hire or bring a lawyer for himself.”
The judge did not address Hussein’s complaints, instead summoning the first of several witnesses who testified against the defendants.
One witness Monday, an 84-year-old woman named Aisha Hama Ameen, said Hussein’s forces had dropped chemical weapons on her small Kurdish village of Tutma near the provincial capital of Irbil during the holy month of Ramadan.
“I want him to suffer,” she said of Hussein.
“It was Ramadan when he attacked us. Instead of sweets, he gave us poison.
“I want him to be poisoned as he poisoned us,” she said.
So far 65 of 80 scheduled prosecution witnesses have testified during 19 court sessions. The trial is to resume today with more prosecution witnesses.
At a court session scheduled for Sunday in a separate case, Hussein and seven different codefendants could be handed sentences of death by hanging for crimes they are accused of committing against the villagers of Dujayl after a 1982 assassination attempt against Hussein.
Lead defense and prosecution lawyers have both hinted that the date of the verdict could be postponed.