The chair of former
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein remains empty during his trial in Baghdad,
December 7, 2005. [Reuters]
After telling the
court to "go to hell" the night before, the former president effectively
boycotted the fifth session of his trial after spending most of the day in talks
with lawyers in a battle of wills with the Kurdish presiding judge.
Judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin eventually opted to push ahead with proceedings
and heard testimony from two witnesses before adjourning until December 21 --
six days after next week's election for the first full parliament of the
Amin said he would use the two-week break to consider a defense motion to
review the way evidence was given.
One of Saddam's defense lawyers said Saddam would attend when the court
reconvenes after the election, although it was not clear whether the former
leader had told him that.
As the witnesses gave their testimony, Saddam's black leather chair stood
conspicuously empty at the front of the defendant's penned-in dock in the
marbled Baghdad courtroom.
The witnesses, speaking from behind a curtain for fear of their lives,
described years of interrogations and abuses they say they suffered in Saddam's
jails in the 1980s.
"They told us they wanted to speak to us for 10 minutes," a man identified
only as Witness G said, recalling how security forces rounded up people in the
Shi'ite town of Dujail in 1982 following a failed attempt to assassinate
"We were gone for four and a half years."