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Saddam Ejected from Court for Protesting Appointment of New Judge

The new chief judge in the genocide trial of Saddam Hussein on Wednesday ejected the former Iraqi leader from the court. From the city of Irbil in northern Iraq, VOA's Jim Randle has more on the latest developments in the trial.

As soon as the trial resumed in Baghdad Wednesday, Saddam rose to protest the appointment of the new chief judge, Mohammed al-Urebyi. Judge Urebyi then ordered Saddam from the court. Shortly afterward, Saddam's lawyers left the court and the trial went on without them.

Judge Urebyi is presiding over the trial following the removal of the previous chief judge, Abdullah al-Amiri, who was dismissed Tuesday after prosecutors accused him of being biased toward Saddam and those being tried with him.

Last week, Judge Amiri interrupted testimony about Saddam's rule and told the ousted leader he was not a dictator. The lead prosecutor, Munqith al-Faroon also accused Amiri of allowing the defendants to threaten witnesses and make political speeches.

Amiri's removal has drawn criticism from some rights groups. Human Rights Watch said the firing violated the independence of the court.

But an official in Iraq's Kurdish region, Falah Mustafa Bakir, says the judge was fired for professional, not political reasons.

"We want qualified, capable, skillful, judges to be there and to make their judgments on the basis of factual facts which are there, and a lot of witnesses who are eyewitnesses," said Falah Mustafa Bakir. "You have got material, you have got people who lost their loved ones, so it is a strong case. We do not want it to be lost because of the inefficiency and lack of experience of the judges."

Saddam Hussein and his six co-defendants face charges of waging a genocidal campaign against Iraq's ethnic Kurds in the late 1980s. They are accused of killing more than 180,000 people including the use of poison gas in a military campaign.