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Iraqi High Tribunal Resumes Trial Without Saddam

  • Ben Gilbert

The Iraqi High Tribunal convened in Baghdad for the ninth time. Noticeably absent were Saddam Hussein and Barzan Al Tikriti - both defendants refused to attend the session.

All but three of the eight chairs reserved for defendants were occupied, as the trial resumed. Saddam and four of his co-defendants refused to attend, as did their defense attorneys. High Tribunal chief judge Raouf Abdel Rahman said, according to Iraqi law, the session would continue without the defendants and that court-appointed defense attorney's would defend them.

The chief prosecutor in the case objected, arguing that Saddam and his co-defendants should be forced to attend the trial. The judge disagreed and the proceedings moved ahead.

Previous court sessions have been characterized by regular outbursts and diatribes from Saddam and his half brother and co-defendant, Barzan al-Tikriti.

The judge in the first seven sessions of the court largely tolerated what many Iraqi government officials saw as a challenge to the court's authority. Under criticism for not reigning in the defendants, the first judge quit. Judge Rahman took his place - vowing on is first day that such behavior would not be tolerated in his courtroom.

This hard-line approach led to a confrontation on Sunday with al-Tikriti and Saddam, in which the entire defense team and Saddam walked out. Tikriti was forcibly removed from the courtroom by Iraqi bailiffs.

Organizations such as Human Rights Watch have questioned the fairness of the trial. It is unclear how the missing defendants and defense team may affect both international and Iraqi perceptions of the trials legality and fairness.

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