Tuesday’s hearing got off to a chaotic start as the presiding judge called a recess just minutes after “witness A” began to testify amid a row over whether her heavily disguised voice was understandable.
Mesmerising the world with disturbing accounts of torture from witnesses and angry tirades from Saddam blasting the legality of the proceedings, the trial has been hailed the “trial of the century” by the local media.
Saddam, for decades one of the most feared leaders in the Middle East before being overthrown by invading US-led troops in 2003, is on trial with seven co-defendants for the massacre of 148 people from the Shia village of Dujail in 1982.
He and his seven deputies, who have pleaded not guilty, face the death penalty by hanging if convicted over the killings, which followed an assassination bid against Iraq’s former president during a visit to the village.
Defence lawyers, who have been accused of trying to delay proceedings, protested on Tuesday that a witness’s modulated voice was incomprehensible, seeing the audio feed briefly cut to journalists in the press box.
“He said take off your clothes. He hit me with the pistol and … he lifted my legs upward and he hit me with cables and asked me to talk”
Technical problems apparently resolved, the hearing resumed with witness A recalling harrowing moments from the early 1980s when she was tortured by intelligence agents and then jailed in Iraq’s notorious Abu Ghraib prison.
Taken to the operation room, the woman said a man ordered her to remove her clothes before pistol whipping her and lashing her with cables, her legs up, all with her voice disguised by computer.
“He said take off your clothes. He hit me with the pistol and I was forced to take my clothes and he lifted my legs upward and he hit me with cables and asked me to talk,” she was translated as saying.
Just metres away in the court room, relayed television footage showed a silent Saddam sitting in the dock.
The witness said she was held at
Later taken to a room that was “all red” with another girl, the witness said they used their shoes as pillows to get some rest.
“We put shoes as pillows. Then the door was locked and from a small window they gave us two loaves of bread,” she said.
The court adjourned for a recess after her testimony.
Saddam had entered the courtroom in the morning with his usual Quran as well as files and papers, after his protests to the judge on Monday that he had been forced to take notes on his hands.
“Good morning to all those who respect the law,” the deposed president said, greeting his co-defendants.
He remained silent during the witness testimony.
Unafraid of execution
At a marathon session on Monday, Saddam said he was unafraid of execution, as the court was subjected to tearful accounts of murder and torture – including the use of a meat grinder and electric shocks – from one witness.
“I am not afraid of being executed… Long live Iraq”
“I am not afraid of being executed” if found guilty, Saddam said, after an earlier outburst in which he shouted, “Long live Iraq.”
Iraq’s newly empowered Shia group has heavily criticised the slow start of the trial, which is likely to be adjourned ahead of general elections on 15 December.
Commentators have accused Saddam of trying to hijack the trial with his repeated tirades, mirrored by similar interjections from his co-defendant and half-brother Barzan al-Tikriti, who is suffering from cancer.
Ramsey Clark, a former US attorney-general, who is among those representing Saddam, has claimed it will be very difficult for his client to receive a fair trial, and on Monday criticised the proceedings as “chaotic”.
Ramsey Clark has criticised the
“I think it’s going to be very, very difficult,” he told CNN on Monday, also questioning the impartiality of the presiding judge, a Kurd.
Saddam is facing charges in this trial over the killing of Shia villagers.
A second member of Saddam’s defence team said the court set up under US occupation was forbidden by international law, and called for his client to be tried by an international tribunal.
Among the other defendants are Taha Yassin Ramadan, Saddam’s former vice-president, and Awad Ahmad al-Bandar, the head judge of the scrapped revolutionary court.
The process began with a brief opening on 19 October, followed by a 40-day delay and a two-hour session on 28 November, before a week-long adjournment until Monday’s hearing.