"I ask you being an Iraqi person that if you reach a verdict of death, execution, remember that I am a military man and should be killed by firing squad and not by hanging as a common criminal," the former Iraqi president said.

Saddam never served in the ranks of the Iraqi army but appointed himself as a general after taking power in 1979.

He also said he had been brought by the Americans to the Baghdad courtroom "against my will and directly from the hospital", where he was rushed on Sunday on the 17th day of a hunger strike and fed through a tube.

He later reportedly broke his hunger strike by eating lunch at the court, witnesses said.

 

The prosecution has asked for the death penalty for Saddam and two of the other seven defendants for their role in the deaths of Shia Muslims in a crackdown following a 1982 assassination attempt against the Iraqi ruler in the Iraqi town of Dujail.

 

'Illegal' trial

 

Judge Raouf Abdel-Rahman challenged Saddam's assertion that he had been brought to court against his will.

 

"Not even 1,000 people like you [the judge] can terrify me"

Saddam Hussein, former Iraqi president

"You were not brought here against your will," the judge said.

"The medical report... indicates that you are in good shape."

 

"I didn't say I was ill," Saddam replied. "I was on a hunger strike.

 

"Not even 1,000 people like you can terrify me."

 

Saddam remained defiant in court, accusing Abdel-Rahman of failing to protect his lawyers - three of whom have been killed since his trial began in October.

 

"Half my lawyers were killed. Is it too much for you to protect them?"  he said, before repeating his assertion that the trial was illegal.

 

Verdict due

 

Saddam began refusing food on the night of July 7 to protest the trial and demand better security for his defence team.

 

The other team members have boycotted the proceedings since their colleague, Khamis al-Obeidi, was kidnapped and murdered on June 21.

 

The court appointed new lawyers to deliver final summations - two of which remain. The last two summations are expected to be delivered on Thursday, after which the five judges will adjourn to consider a verdict, possibly delivered in mid-August.

 

Saddam is due to stand trial in late August over the bloody crackdown on the Kurds in the 1980s.

 

If he is convicted, appeal is automatic and it is unlikely the sentence will be carried out until the government finishes other cases against him.