Iran provocation
   
"It was provoked by Iran. They were members of Dawa. The leadership of Dawa was in Iran," al-Bandar said.
   
The present leader of Dawa, a Shia Islamist party, is Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the Iraqi prime minister whose government has pressed for the Dujail trial to be conducted swiftly.
   

"It was provoked by Iran. They were members of Dawa. The leadership of Dawa was in Iran"

Awad Hamad al-Bandar, former head of Iraq's Revolutionary Court

"The target was the head of state and we were in a state of war with Iran," al-Bandar said.

"He [Saddam] was the commander of the armed forces.
   
"The court took two weeks. The 148 men had confessed. It is all in the files."

The killing of the men from the Shia town of Dujail is at the heart of the case.

Saddam said on 1 March that he had ordered the trial under al-Bandar which led to the executions, and said this had been an entirely legitimate procedure.
   
He also said farms had been razed around the town in reprisal.
   
In a phase of the trial that began on Sunday, four local Baath party officials from Dujail had already made their appearances.

Three of them contested sworn statements the prosecution said they had made in pre-trial proceedings.