Saddam, co-defendants on hunger strike
Updated: 2006-02-15 08:18
After shouts, insults, arguments and walkouts, Saddam Hussein and three of
his co-defendants unveiled a new show-stealing tactic Tuesday: They announced in
court that they had gone on hunger strike.
Saddam said the strike was called to protest the tough way chief judge Raouf
Abdel-Rahman has conducted the court since he took over last month.
Former Iraqi leader
Saddam Hussein gestures during his trial in Baghdad February 13, 2006.
"For three days we have been holding a hunger strike protesting against your
way of treating us ！ against you and your masters," the former Iraqi leader
said. Their claims could not be independently confirmed.
Abdel-Rahman has tried to impose order in a court where outbursts and abuse,
mostly by Saddam and his former intelligence chief and half brother Barzan
Ibrahim, have often overshadowed the proceedings. The disruptions led to
criticism of Abdel-Rahman's predecessor, fellow Kurd Rizgar Mohammed Amin, for
not doing enough to rein in the brothers.
But after a short period of shouting and verbal abuse at the start of
Tuesday's session, the court was calm as prosecutors tried for a second
consecutive day to build their case of the ousted president's direct role in
executions and imprisonment of hundreds Shiites in the 1980s.
A key document presented to the court allegedly showed that Saddam approved
rewards for intelligence agents involved in the crackdown against residents of
Dujail, a mainly Shiite town north of Baghdad, following a 1982 assassination
attempt against him there.
If convicted in the killing of nearly 150 Shiites from Dujail, Saddam and his
seven co-defendants could face death by hanging.
Ibrahim spoke at length, denying he had any part in the crackdown and
insisting he personally released detainees.
He spoke from the defendants' pen, again wearing only his pajamas in protest
at being forced to attend the trial. But his orderly arguments represented the
first time any of the defendants have dealt at length with the charges they
face, and his participation could boost the legitimacy of a tribunal whose
fairness some have questioned.
Judge Raid Juhi, a court spokesman who investigated the Dujail case, told
reporters of Ibrahim's attire: "You must have noticed that all the defendants
wore appropriate attire. Defendant Barzan (Ibrahim) wore what he thought was
After nearly three hours of testimony, Abdel-Rahman adjourned the trial until
The day's session began with Saddam entering and shouting his support for
Iraqi insurgents. "Long live the mujahedeen!" he yelled. Later, during the
testimony, he shouted, "I say to all Iraqis, fight and liberate your country!"
Saddam said he had not eaten in three days, while Ibrahim said he had been on
strike for two days. Two other defendants, Awad Bandar and former Vice President
Taha Yassin Ramadan, also said they were on a hunger strike.
Their claims could not be confirmed. Although the defendants are in Iraq's
legal custody, they are being held in a U.S. military detention facility. There
was no comment immediately available from the Americans.
Juhi did not deny the defendants were refusing food when asked about the
strike after the day's three-hour session.
"This is an administrative problem that the court is working to verify and it
will work also to solve it ... with the responsible parties in the custodial
authorities," he told reporters.
"But, as you could see, the defendants are in good health," he said.
Ibrahim complained that he and other defendants had been forced to attend the
proceedings against their will. "You brought me by force in my pajamas and I
have been on a hunger strike for two days," he said. "Are you familiar with the
law, or did they just bring you here?" Ibrahim asked Abdel-Rahman provocatively.
The judge ignored the questions and smiled.
The defendants refused to attend sessions held Feb. 1 and 2 after their
defense team walked out of court Jan. 29. The defense lawyers have refused to
participate in the trial until Abdel-Rahman is removed, accusing him of bias
Abdel-Rahman appointed new defense lawyers, but Saddam and other defendants
have so far refused to accept them. But on Monday, Abdel-Rahman ordered the
defendants to attend the session. Saddam walked in on his own, but Ibrahim had
to be pulled into the court by guards who held him by the arms.
On Tuesday, the prosecution put on the stand three former members of Saddam's
regime ！ a former secretary of Saddam's, a former provincial governor and an
anonymous intelligence official.
It also displayed to the court a document dated July 21, 1982 ！ 13 days after
the assassination attempt ！ in which the Mukhabarat, the intelligence agency
headed by Ibrahim at the time, recommended rewards for six employees for their
role in the arrests.
The document bore a signature that the prosecution said was Ibrahim's. Below
it was written the word "agreed" with what was allegedly Saddam's signature.
On the witness stand, Hamed Youssef Hamadi ！ Saddam's secretary at the time ！
was asked whose handwriting was on the memo. "It looks like President Saddam's,"
Ibrahim disputed the authenticity of the document. He cross-examined all
three witnesses and at the same time gave his own account of his role in the
Dujail crackdown. Abdel-Rahman allowed him to speak, largely uninterrupted.
Ibrahim said he went to Dujail on the day that gunmen opened fire on Saddam's
motorcade, then returned to the village the following day. He claimed he ordered
the release of more than 80 detainees held at the ruling Baath Party's
headquarters in the town.
"I released all the detainees inside the hall ！ more than 80 persons. I swear
to God I said goodbye to them one by one and apologized," he said.
After those two visits, Ibrahim continued, "I never heard of Dujail ever
again. I never got a report on it. It was all handed over to the General
Security Services," a separate agency.
In previous sessions, some prosecution witnesses ！ Dujail residents arrested
in the crackdown ！ have testified that Ibrahim was personally involved in
For the first time since the trial began in October, Ramadan, Saddam's former
vice president, was implicated by a witness for other than the reprisal
destruction of farmland and orchards owned by Dujail residents.
The day's last witness, Hamadi, testified that he had been told by a senior
intelligence official that he was relieved of investigating the case after
questioning seven suspects, making room for Ramadan, who took over.
Ramadan, backed by Saddam, disputed the allegation.