Thinner Hussein is back in court, still combative

Former leader curses judge and his lawyer

July 27, 2006|By BORZOU DARAGAHI | BORZOU DARAGAHI,LOS ANGELES TIMES

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Gaunt and pale, but distinctively impertinent, Saddam Hussein emerged from a hunger strike for closing defense arguments yesterday in the trial examining alleged crimes against the Shiite population during his regime.

The former Iraqi president, who had been fed through a tube while hospitalized for the past three days, lashed out at Judge Raouf Rasheed Abdel Rahman, at his own court-appointed lawyers and at the U.S. troops who toppled his dictatorship.

"You are my enemy," said Hussein, jabbing his finger at the court-appointed lawyer assigned to present his defense after his own attorneys boycotted the trial. "Why do you impose yourself as an enemy of the Iraqi people?"

The attorney, his voice digitally disguised, continued reading from a final defense statement that stretched 75 pages.

"I don't want my history to be stained by this," Hussein interrupted.

"You don't write the history," the judge retorted. "The people write it."

"Yes, the people and the people's heroes," said Hussein, who claimed he was forced to attend yesterday's session and repeatedly asked to leave.

He and seven former regime officials face a potential death penalty if convicted of a massacre of 148 villagers in the northern village of Dujail after a 1982 assassination attempt against him.

The often scowling and razor-tongued judge has consistently refused to permit Hussein or other co-defendants to steer attention from the subject at hand.

But yesterday, the judge hit back when Hussein came out in support of the Sunni Arab insurgents waging a campaign of bombings and shootings against American soldiers and the U.S.-backed government.

"You are provoking the killing of people by car bombs," the judge said.

"I urge the killing of the hostile invaders," said Hussein. "And I urge their expulsion from here. So if the killing leads to their expulsion, I urge it."

Hussein's court-appointed lawyer, reading in a dull monotone, raised dozens of points, questioning the hearsay nature of the evidence presented against the defendant.

He argued that charges of mass murder against Hussein were unwarranted, drawing on precedents set in examining the crimes against humanity in Rwanda and former Yugoslavia.

"The judgment can only be made based on facts and context," he said. "It requires showing that the defendant's actions were based on a systematic attack on civilians and was intended as part of a systematic attack on civilians."

Hussein repeatedly interrupted the presentation. Once, he demanded that he be put to death by firing squad as befits a military man rather than "hanging like a common criminal."

He frequently raised his right hand and pointed to the judge or lawyer. "I am not defending myself," he said. "I am defending Iraq. I am protecting the people of Iraq."

As his attorney ended his presentation, Hussein blurted out to him, "Damn you!"

Borzou Daragahi writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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