Qatari lawyer and former justice minister Najib al-Nuaimi, who has joined Saddam's defence team, contested on Monday the legitimacy of the Iraqi court and its right to try his client.
 
"I will tackle the mandate of this court in exercising the duty it was assigned for. We reserve the right not to hear any witnesses or see any matter until the court resolves the question of its legal mandate, as based on local and international law," al-Nuaimi said.
 
"With due respect to its judges, we contest the legitimacy of this court."

The presiding judge has promised to respond in due course.

Bushra al-Khalil, a Lebanese member of the Saddam defence team, also stressed the illegitimacy of the court according to international law, which does not allow an invading force to write laws.

"The court was established by law No 48 issued by the US ruler of Iraq Paul Bremer. This man was the ruler of Iraq when the UN was viewing Iraq as an occupied country and when the US-led forces in Iraq were classified as occupation forces by the UN," she told Aljazeera.net.

"Bremer ruled Iraq before the UN ends the state of occupation and even before the so-called handover of sovereignty to Iraqis on 28 June 2004."    

Legal experts say international law states clearly that occupation forces must not try any national of the occupied country for acts committed before the occupation.

Al-Khalil slammed the judge's failure to address al-Nuaimi's point.

"In law, when a lawyer challenges the jurisdiction of a court, the court should reply to that challenge before proceeding with the trial. But yesterday's court session did not meet that criterion... The court must respond before resuming the trial," al-Khalil said.

Unfocused session

A combative Saddam Hussein lashed out at his treatment by American "occupiers and invaders" and lectured the chief judge about leadership as his trial resumed in a rambling and unfocused session on Monday.

Two of the seven other defendants also spoke out during the two and a half hour hearing on Monday, complaining of their treatment in detention or dissatisfaction with their court-appointed counsel.

Clark believes it is difficult to
give Saddam a fair trial

Former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark, who has joined the defence team as an adviser, said it was "extremely difficult" to assure fairness in the trial "because the passions in the country are at a fever pitch".

"How can you ask a witness to come in when there is a death threat?" Clark told CNN. "Unless there is protection for the defence, I do not know how the trial can go forward."

The tribunal adjourned until 5 December, only 10 days before the country's parliamentary elections, to give the defence time to replace lawyers who have been assassinated since the trial opened 19 October. Monday was the trial's second session.

Vocal complains

The court's tolerance of vocal complaints from the defendants drew sharp criticism from Shia politicians who contend the tribunal is trying too hard to accommodate an ousted dictator who should have already been convicted and executed.

"The chief judge should be changed and replaced by someone who is strict and courageous," said Shia legislator Ali al-Adeeb, a senior official in Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari's al-Dawa party.