Saddam sent an open letter to Iraqis through Khalil al-Dulaimi, his chief lawyer, in which he predicted "victory" against US occupiers and urged Iraqis to join forces to drive American troops from Iraq.

 

The letter, a copy of which was sent to Aljazeera.net, urged Iraqis to brush aside their differences and utilise their power for the sole purpose of "liberating Iraq."

 

"We are one people as Iraqis and no one can doubt that in this place. The one who has an interest in separating Arabs and Kurds are the Zionists," he said in the letter.

 

Saddam on Tuesday also criticised the new Iraqi government's failure to ensure security in the war-torn country.

 

"Police state"

 

He reacted angrily when Munqith al-Faroon, the chief prosecutor whose brother was shot dead by gunmen on Monday, said Saddam-era Iraq was a "police and intelligence state" which murdered its own citizens.

 

Al-Ureybi agreed to allow the
defence team back 

"Our state and regime was a real one!" he retorted from the dock.

 

"What is not a real state is one in which people's heads are being chopped off and dumped in the streets every day."

 

Following the government's sacking of the previous judge, Saddam's lawyers had been boycotting procedures since mid- September, which had continued with court-appointed lawyers.

 

But Mohammed al-Ureybi, who was named to take over the court following the government's dismissal of the previous judge for saying Saddam was "not a dictator", agreed to a request from them to return.

 

"Prisoners tortured"

 

Tuesday's court session heard from elderly Kurdish peasants who testified that Iraqi planes bombed their mountain villages in Saddam's Anfal military campaign in the 1980s.

 

Mutalib Mohammed Salman, said that his village was demolished before troops sent him and others to a detention centre for six months, where guards tortured some prisoners by suspending them from electricity poles and beating them.

 

He said his wife, two sons and three brothers were killed.

 

Saddam, 69, his cousin, Ali Hassan al-Majeed, known as "Chemical Ali", and five former commanders face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for their alleged role in Anfal.

 

Saddam and al-Majeed also face a charge of genocide. All face the death penalty, if convicted. They have justified the campaign as a legitimate military target against Iraqi Kurdish militias, which fought with Iran against their country’s army.

 

Death penalty

 

The court could deliver a verdict against Saddam for a separate trial in a case that also carries the maximum penalty of death by hanging, on November 5, two days before US mid-term elections are due.

 

However, any execution could be delayed by appeals and by up to 12 more cases that he could face.

 

Prosecutors say 180,000 Kurds were killed and thousands of villages razed during the 1988 Anfal (Spoils of War) offensive in northern Kurdistan region.


Iraqi and UN officials estimate that around 100 Iraqis are killed everyday in the ongoing violence in Iraq.

 

Some international legal groups have said violence between Saddam's fellow minority Sunnis and ruling majority Shia, and an unrelenting Sunni rebellion, makes a fair trial impossible.