Saddam and co-defendants on hunger strike

Saddam Hussein today told a Baghdad court that he and his seven co-defendants are on hunger strike.

The deposed Iraqi leader who appeared in court dressed in his black suit, said that he was protesting at the conduct of the trial and had been on hunger strike for three days.

Saddam Hussein and seven others are charged with the killing of 142 Shia villagers in the town of Dujail in response to an uprising in 1982 during which the former president's motorcade was fired on.

During today's three-hour court session the court heard from three officials of the former regime.

Saddam Hussein again shouted slogans at the start of the proceedings. The defendants have again refused to co-operate with court appointed lawyers.

Saddam's half-brother Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, who has been allowed to defend himself, made an uninterrupted 30-minute speech after he had briefly cross-examined the three witnesses. He denied any involvement in the Dujail killings and claimed he had ordered the release of 80 detainees being held in the Baath party headquarters in the town.

The first witness, an intelligence officer, gave evidence from behind a screen.

The second witness, intelligence official Fadil Mohammed al-Azzawi, declined to give evidence as he had been forced to attend court. He agreed that he had signed a witness statement only because he did not have his glasses at the time.

A personal aide to the former Iraqi leader who was shown a document recommending rewards for the arrests in Dujail, agreed that the signature looked like that of Saddam Hussein.

The court has taken a more hardline approach since the appointment of chief judge Raouf Abdel Rahman.

The trial was adjourned to resume on Tuesday, February 28.


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