The defence brought witnesses on Monday trying to show that a court that sentenced 148 Shia to death during a 1980s crackdown was just and gave them a proper defence.

The first witness was a former lawyer in the Revolutionary Court, testifying on behalf of Awad al-Bandar, who sentenced the 148 Shia to death for alleged involvement in the assassination attempt of Saddam.

"The court allowed defendant to commission a lawyer and if a defendant was not able to hire a lawyer then the court would appoint one for him. The court also was allowing all defendants to talk freely," the witness said, speaking from behind a curtain to preserve his anonymity.

"Mr al-Bandar took the humanitarian aspect into consideration, and he was fair and made all judgment according to law," he said.

Al-Bandar, the former head of the revolutionary court under Saddam, oversaw the trial in 1984 for the people of Dujail on charges they were involved with an assassination attempt on Saddam two years before.
 
Al-Bandar faces some of the most serious charges because he convicted and sentenced the townspeople to death in what the prosecution has described as unfair trials.

Like many of the defence witnesses, the testimony was less about the case and more about the good character of the defendant.

Other witnesses

The second witness, a one-time defendant before the revolutionary court, described how he had been acquitted by the judge at the time.
  
"I didn't want a lawyer because I was innocent, but the judge gave me sufficient time to bring a defence lawyer to defend me," said the anonymous witness. "I still remember he called me 'my son' and I was just a defendant."
  
The former governor of Salah al-Din province took the stand on behalf of Saddam himself and described their development efforts in the province and on the behalf of the people of Dujail.
  
"He (Saddam) told me to take care of the services of this governorate. We didn't want the people of the area to feel they are not treated well because some of them violated the law," he said.
  
Other witnesses related how the assassination attempt against Saddam was a plot inspired by Iran, with which Iraq was at war.

The charges against the defendants of crimes against humanity revolve around the actions of Saddam and his aides in the aftermath of the assassination attempt, including the widespread arrest, torture and interrogations of the Dujailis and the destruction of their property.

The prosecution in the Saddam trial has argued that the trial of the 148 was a show trial, giving them no chance to defend themselves, and has presented documents showing that children were among those sentenced to death.