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Saddam Returns to Baghdad Court, Defense Team Continues Boycott

Saddam Hussein's genocide trial has resumed in Baghdad after more than a week in recess, but defense lawyers continued their boycott of the court session. VOA's Jim Randle reports from the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, where the so-called Anfal campaign against Iraq Kurds was carried out in the 1980s.

The former Iraqi leader took his seat in the defendants' fenced area, along with six co-defendants.

However, his lawyers were absent, continuing a boycott of the court sessions to protest removal of the previous chief judge, Abdullah al-Amiri, who was accused of being biased in favor of Saddam.

Saddam and his cousin, Ali Hassan al-Majeed, also known as "Chemical Ali", and five former commanders are facing charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for their roles in the 1988 campaign that prosecutors say left 182,000 Kurds dead or missing.

Saddam and Majeed also face a charge of genocide. A conviction could send all the accused to the gallows.

When testimony began, Kurdish witnesses described their suffering during the Anfal campaign, when Saddam's forces attacked and destroyed thousands of villages, and allegedly ordered the use of chemical weapons against the town of Halabja.

Some witnesses asked that their names, faces, and even voices, be disguised to protect them from retaliation.

The hearings in this case have been turbulent, and Saddam has been thrown out of court three times.

Jiyan Azizz Bapier, a lawyer who represents many of the Anfal victims, says Saddam's courtroom actions, shouting at the judge and getting thrown out of court, appear designed to undercut the court's legitimacy, and perhaps unsettle the judge, so he makes mistakes.

In a separate trial, Saddam is waiting for a verdict on charges he committed crimes against humanity in the deaths of 148 Shi'ite men from the town of Dujail in the 1980s. That case is scheduled to reconvene on October 16 for judges to review witness testimony.