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Saddam's stop-start trial goes on without him
Updated: 2005-12-08 07:23


Saddam's no-show is the most dramatic twist so far in a trial that has been plagued by delays, the assassination of two attorneys, faulty equipment in court and frequently rambling witness testimony since it opened on October 19.

It has already been adjourned twice -- once to allow the defense time to prepare their case and once after the two defense lawyers were shot dead. The latest adjournment had been widely expected because of the election.

Under Iraqi law, which forms the basis of the tribunal's rules in an amalgam with other principles of international law, the trial can continue to its conclusion without Saddam. The court is merely obliged to keep him posted on developments.

In a half-hour session closed to the media on Wednesday, the tribunal's chief investigating judge said Saddam submitted a request to remove himself from court, having complained of his treatment in detention on Tuesday, and it was granted.

While the trial proceeds, his absence will deprive millions of Iraqis of a chance to see their one-time ruler in the dock.

Although many Iraqi and some international observers feel the verdict is a foregone conclusion -- Saddam will be hanged -- they also say the actual process of trying him could help Iraq move on from the atrocities of his 30-year rule.

With the election looming, the Shi'ite and Kurdish-led government is keen to show the long-oppressed majority community that their former tormentor faces justice.


Saddam and his co-defendants have said their trial is a sham and have repeatedly disrupted it, berating the judge and chief prosecutor and accusing fearful and occasionally incoherent witnesses of lying.

Some Iraqis, particularly from the Sunni Arab minority which enjoyed privileges under Saddam, have complained the Americans and their allies in the Iraqi government are in no position to put him on trial for crimes against humanity.

The moral authority of both the U.S. military and the Shi'ite-dominated government has been called into question by prisoner abuse scandals at Iraqi jails and secret bunkers.
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