At the trial of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad Monday, the former Iraqi dictator told the court he is not afraid of execution and warned the chief judge he would be held accountable for the proceedings if they resumed. Earlier, lawyers for Saddam and his seven codefendants walked out in protest before being allowed to challenge the proceeding's legitimacy in open court.
The trial of ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein came to a stop soon after it began Monday when his defense team walked out of the courtroom in protest over the chief judge's refusal to allow foreign lawyers to speak in court.
After a 90-minute recess, the judge reversed his decision, allowing former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark and another foreign lawyer to address the court. The two men questioned the legitimacy of the court, with Mr. Clark warning of dire consequences if the trial is not seen as fair.
"This trial can either divide or heal and unless it is seen as absolutely fair and is absolutely fair in fact, it will irreconcilably divide the people of Iraq," he said.
Mr. Clark also raised concerns about security for the defense team: Two of its members have been assassinated this year.
"And all this time these men and their families have been left essentially unprotected and it is essential that they be protected now," he said. "Without that protection a fair trial is impossible."
Later, Ahmed Hassan Mohammed, the first witness to take the stand, offered emotional testimony. He spoke of the torturing and killing of more than 140 people in the mainly Shi'ite town of Dujail in 1982. Saddam and his codefendants are accused of ordering the killings in retribution for a failed assassination attempt against the former dictator.