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New Saddam Trial Judge Tries to Impose Order, Gets Chaos

The trial of Saddam Hussein quickly descended into chaos Sunday as a new judge attempted to impose order on unruly outbursts by the ousted Iraqi leader and his co-defendents. The session was the first held by the court in more than a month. Ben Gilbert reports for VOA from Baghdad.

At the start of Sunday's proceedings the Iraqi court's new judge declared he would not tolerate any of the speeches or antics that characterized previous sessions. The judge, Raouf Abdul Rahman was quickly challenged by one defendant, Barzan Al Tikriti, Saddam's half brother and former director of intelligence.

Judge Rahman ordered Tikriti out of the room. When he refused, bailiffs dragged al Tikriti out of the court. The defense team rejected the move, and left the courtroom in protest.

When a team of court appointed defense attorneys were brought in, Saddam stood up to protest…touching off an angry exchange between the judge and the former dictator.

"I was ruling Iraq for 35 years, and I was ruling you," Saddam said to the judge. "Now you try to deal with me as defendant."

The judge then said, "I am judge and you are defendant." As the exchange grew more heated, Saddam pounded on the lectern and demanded he be allowed to leave the courtroom too.

"Excuse me, I can't endure this court, an angry Saddam said. I have to leave this court now…,"

The former Iraqi leader and another defendant were then escorted from the court, and the trial continued with only four of the original seven defendants in their chairs.

Before adjourning the trial until Wednesday, the court heard from a witness who detailed her husband and father's alleged murder at the hands of Saddam's regime in 1982, after an attempt on the former dictator's life in the Iraqi town of Dujail.

The trial revolves around charges that Saddam ordered the murder of 142 residents of Dujail as retaliation for the assassination attempt.

The judge who presided over Sunday's session replaced the original chief judge, Rizkar Mohammed Amin. Judge Amin resigned earlier this month, after government officials criticized his reluctance to bring order to the courtroom.

Another judge on the court was barred from assuming Amin's position after the Iraqi de-Baathification commission found he had been a member of Saddam's former ruling Baath party.

Human Rights Watch says that having two of the original five judge panel missing from the court casts serious doubts on the fairness of the trial. Two defense lawyers have also been murdered since the trial began.