The adjournment was called by the chief judge after the trial resumed on Tuesday without the ex-president and his six co-defendants present in the courtroom.

 

They had been expelled earlier by the judge after a row that broke out between them. 

Judge Muhammad al-Uraiybi opened the hearing on Tuesday by warning Saddam not to disrupt proceedings, and allowed him to read a 20-minute written statement, with microphones off, so that those in the glass-enclosed press gallery could not hear.

But after listening to two Kurdish witnesses, Saddam wanted to speak again, but the judge did not allow him.

"You let the general prosecutor to comment, but banning me from doing so, is this the justice you talking about, what a justice," Saddam said.

"You are a defendant and I'm a judge," al-Uraiybi responded. "Shut up, no-one talk... The court has decided to eject Saddam Hussein from court."

Pointing fingers

As he left the court smiling, Saddam's six co-defendants, all senior officials during his regime, attempted to follow him out but the judge shouted: "Get Saddam out and put the others back in their seats."

Several co-defendants started shouting and pointing fingers at the judge.

"Do not shout at me, we are polite people, people learn from us how to be polite," Sultan Hashim, a former defence minister, told the judge, prompting his ejection. 

The ejection provoked all the defendants who stood up and demanded to leave the courtroom.

Unusually the sound was left on for television broadcasts, allowing Iraqi viewers to watch and listen as pandemonium broke out in the courtroom for several minutes.

Poison gas 

Hussain Rashid, former chief of staff, shouted at the judge: "This is not acceptable, we have served our country for a long time, it is not appropriate to talk to us like that and insult us like that ... You are a judge, the chair you are sitting on is a trust you should not breach, shame on you," he said.  

Saddam was also expelled from the courtroom during the last two hearings for protesting against the sacking of al-Uraiybi's predecessor as chief judge, Abdullah al-Amiri.

The government fired al-Amiri last week for saying Saddam was "not a dictator".

Saddam and the other six could face hanging over the death of an estimated 180,000 Kurdish villagers in 1988, including thousands killed by poison gas.