An angry and defiant Saddam Hussein appeared in court in Baghdad Monday, proclaiming his innocence and daring the judges to sentence him to death. The eight hour court session got off to a chaotic start.
The defiant tone of the Monday's session was set at the outset by former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, who is one of the lawyers helping defend Saddam Hussein.
Mr. Clark led a brief walkout by the defense team after the court's chief justice, Rizgar Mohammed Amin, refused to allow foreign lawyers, including Mr. Clark, to address the court.
After the defense team left the courtroom, Saddam Hussein made the first of his many outbursts of the day, angrily rejecting Judge Amin's efforts to name replacement lawyers for the defendants.
Saddam shouted at the judge, "Why are you letting the employees of the court talk and not letting the defense lawyers defend us? Is this justice?"
Co-defendant Barzan Ibrahim, who once headed Iraq's feared intelligence service, joined his half-brother Saddam in berating the judge with shouts of, "Why do you not just execute us and get rid of all of this?"
Following a 90 minute recess, Judge Amin agreed to let Mr. Clark speak and the 14 defense attorneys returned to the courtroom.
The controversial American lawyer, who has previously defended former Yugoslavian president Slobodan Milosevic and other unpopular figures, warned that a trial such as this had to follow strict international legal standards or risk being seen as illegitimate.
"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," said Mr. Clark.
Monday's court session was the third in a trial in which Saddam Hussein and seven co-defendants are accused of massacring more than 140 people in the town of Dujail, after a failed assassination attempt there during a visit by Saddam in 1982.
The court heard its first live testimony from a witness from Dujail, Ahmed Hassan Mohammed, who began his testimony in an emotional manner, waving a picture of family members he says were killed by Barzan Ibrahim.
The former intelligence officer, who says he is suffering from cancer, showed no sign of being ill on Monday. He leapt to his feet several times, shouting "Go to hell!" and "It's a lie!" Saddam also tried to interrupt the witness, who broke down and wept several times as he recounted the torture he said he endured during several years of imprisonment by Iraqi intelligence.
A second witness, Juwad Abdul Aziz Juwad, described how Saddam sent military helicopters and bulldozers to obliterate people's properties and to punish the town. Mr. Juwad, who was 10 years old at the time of the massacre, testified that Saddam's regime killed three of his brothers.
Saddam told Judge Amin that both witnesses were spreading what he called "organized lies." Shaking his finger at the judge, he said, "You want my neck? You can have it!"
As many as nine more witnesses are due to testify in the coming days. Unlike the two witnesses on Monday who risked reprisals by showing their faces on camera, other witnesses are expected to testify behind a screen or off camera to protect their identities.