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Trial delayed as Saddam refuses to attend
Updated: 2005-12-07 17:25

Saddam Hussein's trial was delayed Wednesday after the ousted president refused to attend the session, court officials said. Defense lawyers huddled with the judges in hopes of resolving the latest test of wills in the often-unruly trial.

An angry Saddam threatened at the end of the Tuesday court session to boycott the next day's proceedings after complaining that he and the seven other co-defendants had been mistreated by the "unjust court."

Court officials on Wednesday said Saddam was sticking by his vow, and the judges were trying to decide whether to proceed without him.

If the differences cannot be resolved, an official said the court might hold a closed session to search for solutions.

Saddam's threat not to attend the Wednesday session came at the end of a daylong session in which five witnesses two women and three men related the events of a 1982 crackdown on Shiite Muslims. The most dramatic testimony came from a woman who spoke behind a beige curtain and with her voice disguised.

She told of beatings, torture and sexual humiliation at the hands of security agents when she was a teenager.

At the end of the Tuesday session, the judges agreed over defense objections to meet again the following day. Saddam shouted that "I will not come to an unjust court! Go to hell!"

Saddam, dressed again in a dark suit and white shirt and clutching a Quran, complained that he and the seven other defendants were tired and had been deprived of opportunities to shower, have a change of clothes, exercise or go for a smoke.

"This is terrorism," he declared.

Throughout the trial, which began Oct. 19, Saddam has repeatedly staged confrontations with the court and attempted to take control of the proceedings with dramatic rhetorical flourishes.

Saddam and the others are charged in the deaths of more than 140 Shiite Muslims in retaliation for an assassination attempt against him in the town of Dujail in 1982. Saddam accused Iran of ordering the attempt on his life.

Five witnesses two women and three men testified Tuesday in the fourth session of the trial, all of them hidden from the public view and with their voices disguised to protect their identities.

The most compelling testimony came from the woman identified only as "Witness A," who was a 16-year-old girl at the time of the crackdown. Her voice breaking with emotion, she told the court of beatings and electric shocks by the former president's agents.

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