Iraqi police say they have arrested eight Sunni Arabs allegedly planning to assassinate a judge presiding over the trial of ousted leader Saddam Hussein.

The arrests Saturday in Kirkuk came as prosecutors prepared to call their first witnesses when the trial resumes Monday.  Saddam Hussein and seven of his former officials are charged with crimes against humanity in the deaths of more than 140 Shi'ites in the town of Dujail in 1982.

Meanwhile, former Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi says human rights abuses in Iraq are now as bad or worse than under Saddam's rule.

Mr. Allawi -- a secular Shi'ite running for election to parliament December 15th -- told a British newspaper, The Observer, that he believes the government is running secret torture centers and backing death squads.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani later told British television he does not believe there is a serious problem with rights abuses or torture by the government.

Some information for this report provided by AFP and Reuters.