Saddam hospitalised as trial enters final phase

news32.jpgBAGHDAD (AP) — Saddam Hussein’s half-brother argued with the chief judge Monday and accused a court employee of shaking down a relative for money as the trial entered its final phase without the hospitalised former president.

Barzan Tikriti, a former intelligence chief, was the only one of the eight defendants in court when the trial resumed after a two-week break to continue hearing final summations.

After summations, the five-judge panel will adjourn to consider a verdict, which could include death by hanging for Saddam and two co-defendants, including Barzan.

Saddam, 69, remained hospitalised Monday, taking nutrition through a feeding tube, court spokesman Raid Juhi said. The tube was inserted Sunday, the 17th day of Saddam’s hunger strike. Juhi said Saddam was now in stable condition and would be in court Wednesday when the trial reconvenes.

“His health is not in jeopardy,” White House spokesman Tony Snow said Monday in Washington.

Saddam and the seven others have been on trial since October 19 for the deaths of Shiite Muslims in a crackdown on the town of Dujail, which was launched after an assassination attempt against Saddam in 1982.

Barzan had also been refusing food since July 7 to demand better security for defence lawyers, who have boycotted the hearings since last month’s killing of Khamis Obeidi, the third member of the defence team slain since the trial began.

Despite more than two weeks without food, Barzan appeared no less combative than in previous sessions, when he was sometimes restrained by guards for rowdy behaviour.

He told the chief judge, Raouf Abdel-Rahman, that he would not accept a court-appointed attorney and asked for more time to find another lawyer or to persuade the defence team to return.

“I have lawyers, as your honour knows, but they are passing through very difficult and critical times because three of them were killed and one was injured and is still in the hospital,” Barzan said.

Abdel-Rahman rejected the request.

“I want to ask you, how long will you and your lawyers continue this game?” the judge asked Barzan. “This game with the court is meant to prolong the trial… Regrettably, your lawyers are making speeches and accusations against the court accusing it of being linked with the Americans and the occupation.” The court-appointed attorney then delivered the summation, telling the tribunal there was “not one bit of evidence that proves the involvement of Barzan” in the Dujail crackdown. The lawyer’s name was not released, and his voice was altered on the television feed to hide his identity.

Afterward, Barzan was allowed to make a statement. He told the judge he did not take notes during the court-appointed attorney’s summation “because I do not consider him as a representative of my case.” He accused an unidentified court employee of extorting $7,500 from his sister-in-law. Abdel-Rahman asked him to present evidence in a writing.

Barzan then began reading a poem about the courage of Baghdad in resisting foreign occupation, but was cut short by Abdel-Rahman.

“You insult Baghdad by saying Baghdad has fallen under the boot of American soldiers,” the judge said. “It was the totalitarian and dictatorship regime that fell — not Baghdad.” “You, meaning all of you, from childhood, your hands were soaked with the blood of Iraqis,” the judge said. “Enough killing. Enough blood. From childhood your hands are tainted.” Saddam is due to stand trial beginning August 21 in a 1980s crackdown in which an estimated 100,000 Kurds died.

The prosecution has asked for the death penalty against Saddam, Barzan and former Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan. The prosecution suggested one defendant be acquitted and the others receive lesser sentences because they were minor figures in the Dujail crackdown. The prosecution recommendation is not binding.

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