Saddam defence testimony ends

The chief judge declared an end to the hearing of defence witnesses in the trial of Saddam Hussein on Tuesday.

    The judge closed the court to the public for hours on Tuesday

    The prosecution will present its closing argument next week, said chief judge Raouf Abdel-Rahman.

    The declaration came despite complaints by the defence team that it has not had the freedom to properly present its case and that many of its motions were not ruled on by Abdel-Rahman.

    "For your client alone, you've presented 26 witnesses. If that's not enough to present your case, then 100 won't work," Abdel-Rahman told defence lawyer Khamis al-Obeidi, who insisted he still had "effective and useful" witnesses to call.

    "I've finished hearing witnesses," Abdel-Rahman said. "We have heard your witnesses, we've listened to every word. God willing, it will all end fine."

    "God willing," al-Obeidi said sullenly.

    Adjourned to Monday

    Abdel-Rahman adjourned the trial until Monday, when he said the prosecution would present its closing arguments. He said the defence would give its final statement on July 10.

    Presumably, after that, the court would adjourn to consider its verdicts in the trial of Saddam and seven former members of his regime.

    Barzan Ibrahim was removed
    from court by guards on Monday

    The eight defendants face possible execution by hanging if convicted on charges of crimes against humanity in a crackdown against Shias in the town of Dujail, launched after a 1982 assassination attempt against the then-Iraqi leader.

    They are accused of illegally arresting hundreds of Shias - including women and children -- torturing some to death and killing 148 people who were sentenced to death for the attack on Saddam.

    The defence insisted it had not been allowed to give a proper defence.

    "We haven't been able to consult with our clients alone," said lawyer Wadud Fawzi. "For 58 days we haven't been able to even meet with our clients … We can't exchange any documents with them, that is an impediment to the defence."

    He said that investigating judges who gather evidence for the trial had not sought out documents the defence requested "that could help acquit our clients" and that the court had ignored its request to investigate claims that some of the 148 Shias supposedly killed were still alive.

    Former Saddam bodyguards

    The court on Tuesday heard a quick series of defence witnesses, including three former bodyguards of Saddam who were with him on the day of the shooting attack on his motorcade in Dujail. The witnesses testified anonymously, from behind a curtain to protect them from reprisals.

    They said Saddam ordered his guards to stop firing back when gunmen in a nearby palm grove shot at his car. "My understanding at that time, the president did not want that even an animal in the groves to be hurt by the bodyguards' fire," one of the witnesses said.

    Another witness said some Dujail residents approached Saddam after the attack "and they were crying to apologise. I remember, he told them, 'They (the attackers) don't represent you, you are good people."'

    Abdel-Rahman barred one of the co-defendants, former intelligence chief Barzan Ibrahim, from attending Tuesday's session after throwing him out of the court the day before for arguing with him.

    Abdel-Rahman angrily closed the court to the public for several hours after accusing a defence lawyer of trying to prompt a witness - Saddam's half-brother and former adviser Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hassan - to make political speeches.

    Later, he allowed journalists back into the chamber and resumed a video broadcast of the session.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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