The former Iraqi president on Thursday signalled his refusal to cooperate after seven charges against him were read out in the military tribunal before which he and his 11 co-accused are to be tried.

According to Aljazeera correspondent Abd al-Adhim Muhammad, the former president asked: "How do you bring me to this place without any defence attorney?"

 

When asked by the judge to identify himself, Saddam answered, "I am Saddam Hussein al-Majid, the president of the republic of Iraq."  Saddam refused to say "Saddam Hussein, the former president of Iraq."

 

When asked to identify his place of residence he replied: "I live in each Iraqi's house."

 

Kuwait invasion

Saddam also defended his 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Dressed in grey and appearing healthier and better turned-out than when he was captured, he declared, "Kuwait is an Iraqi territory. It was not an invasion."

"I am Saddam Hussein al-Majid, the president of the republic of Iraq" 

Saddam Hussein,
Former Iraqi presiden

Also, according to reporters who attended the 30-minute hearing which authorities allowed to be filmed without sound, Saddam called the Kuwaitis "dogs" and referred to the tribunal as "a play aimed at Bush's chances of winning the US presidential elections."  He also said the "the criminal is Bush".

Responding to Saddam's comments, Kuwait's information minister said the former leader is a "war criminal who committed genocide against the Iraqi and Kuwaiti people."

"We demand that he face the maximum punishment, which is death for his crimes," Muhammad Abu al-Hasan told reporters. 

Exchange with the judge 

According to our correspondent, Saddam asked the judge to identify himself and asked him from where he obtained his degree in law. He also asked him if he was an authentic judge and what laws are he using.

Kuwait minister of information
says Saddam is "a war criminal"

The judge said "I have worked since the former regime and I have been nominated by coalition authorities."

Saddam then mocked the judge and said "this means you are applying the invaders' laws to try me".  

Saddam also debated the judge saying, "You are a lawman and I am a lawman too and we have to talk according to the law".  
   
Secrecy

Earlier, an armoured bus flanked by four Humvees and an ambulance transported the former president to a secret location to face the charges.

Upon arrival, he was led into a building by two Iraqi prison guards, while six more guards stood to attention at the door. Saddam's first appearance in a special Iraqi court was shrouded in secrecy, with only a small pool of journalists and officials allowed access.

"Saddam entered the courtroom at 2:25pm (11:25 GMT). It was a small courtroom and there were a limited number of journalists and some officials like Muwafaq al-Rubaee.  He was weak and pale and could be hardly heard," said Abd al-Adhim Muhammad. In addition to Saddam, 11 former officials were due to appear before Iraq's special tribunal on Thursday.

Charges

Charges against the deposed Iraqi leader and 11 of his senior officials are expected to include war crimes and genocide, as well as crimes against humanity, but it is not yet clear what offences each individual will be charged with.

"We demand that he face the maximum punishment, which is death for his crimes"

Muhammad Abu al-Hasan,
Kuwaiti information minister 

According to Aljazeera's correspondent, the judge raised seven accusations against Saddam including:

  • Intentionally killing civilians using chemical weapons in Halabja, north of Iraq.
  • Intentionally killing civilians without trial
  • Intentionally killing Barazanis in 1983
  • Intentionally killing men of religion
  • Intentionally killing civilians in al-Anfal operations against Kurds in northern Iraq
  • Intentionally killing civilians in the south of Iraq in 1991
  • Invasion of Kuwait

The proceedings were televised but not broadcast live.

They were taking place near Baghdad international airport, where the US military is thought to have held the 12 men in solitary confinement at a detention centre.

No formal indictment

Saddam had no lawyers to represent him at the arraignment. Formal indictments may not be ready for months.

Similar proceedings were to be held later for his former aides, including former Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz and Hasan Ali al-Majid, dubbed Chemical Ali by the US for his alleged role in using poison gas against Kurds and Iranians.

The US military, which had held Saddam and his lieutenants as prisoners of war, handed them over to Iraqi legal custody on Wednesday, but will continue to hold physical custody. 

Saddam, accused of ordering the killing and torture of thousands of people during 35 years of Baathist rule, was captured by US forces in December near his hometown of Tikrit after eight months on the run following his 9 April overthrow.

The public last glimpsed him, dishevelled and with a bushy beard, in television footage shot soon after his capture.