Saddam was not in court on Thursday because his summation was presented the day before by a court-appointed lawyer.

 

His defence team has boycotted the trial since last month to protest against the killing of Khamis al-Obeidi, the third defence lawyer murdered since the trial began in October.

 

The prosecution has asked for the death penalty for Saddam and two of the other seven defendants for their roles in the deaths of dozens of Iraqi Shia in a crackdown after a 1982 assassination attempt against him in the town of Dujail.

 

No evidence

 

Thursday's session had opened with Taha Yassin Ramadan, the former Iraqi vice-president, saying he rejected his court-appointed lawyer.

 

Raouf Abdel-Rahman, the trial judge, said he could present his own summation.

 

Ramadam condemned the deaths 
of three defence lawyers

Ramadan said he could produce 1,000 witnesses who would say he was not in Dujail at the time of the incident and condemned the Iraqi government for failing to protect the defendants' lawyers.

 

"If I left prison now, I could find the killers in five minutes," he said.

 

His court-appointed lawyer, who spoke with his voice scrambled to protect his identity, said that his client had "no role" in the incident and that there was "no direct evidence" against him.

 

Awaiting verdict

 

On Wednesday, Saddam said that, as a soldier, he deserved to meet his fate by firing squad rather than by hanging like "a common criminal".

 

Iraqi law states that, if guilty, his execution must be by hanging, and the ousted Iraqi president appointed himself commander-in-chief while never actually serving in the military.

 

Before the verdict in the Dujail trial, the former Iraqi leader is also due to stand trial on August 21 over the suppression of Iraqi Kurds in the 1980s.