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Sadam Fights back in Court


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The BBC's world affairs editor John Simpson in Baghdad reflects on the day the former Iraqi President, Saddam Hussein, made a first televised appearance before an Iraqi judge.

Saddam was able to raise a number of contentious issues

The moment when Saddam Hussein's handcuffs and chains were heard clanking outside the courtroom was almost unbearably dramatic.

Yet when he entered, the effect the new government here had hoped to make was unexpectedly undermined.

True, Saddam Hussein looked older and diminished and somehow haunted, yet there was plenty of his old imperious manner, and that was not at all what the government had wanted.

The last image the Iraqi people had of him was when he was captured in December - filthy, dishevelled and utterly humiliated.

Iraqi suspicions

The judge on Thursday banned the sound of Saddam Hussein's voice on television - but that merely gave the impression he was being gagged. And then some of the sound was made available anyway.

The timing of it all meant the pictures aired on American breakfast television, and that spread suspicions here that it was really all about helping US President George W Bush in the opinion polls.

So did the fact that the only reporters in court were from American organisations.

Most importantly, Saddam Hussein was able to raise the whole contentious subject of the rights and wrongs of last year's invasion.

That is something the Iraqi government could really do without.

Judge challenged

He was polite to the judge, but took the opportunity to score a number of points.


Anfal campaign against Kurds, late 1980s

Gassing Kurds in Halabja, 1988

Invasion of Kuwait , 1990

Crushing Kurdish and Shia rebellions after 1991 Gulf War

Killing political activists over 30 years

Massacring members of Kurdish Barzani tribe in 1980s

Killing religious leaders, 1974

Arab media urges fair trial

"You shouldn't work for the coalition forces," he told him.

Saddam Hussein also spoke about himself, as he often does, in the third person.

After his performance some Iraqis sympathised with him, but others were glad that he had been brought to court.

For the last six months he had begun to fade a little from the people's consciousness, but now he has reminded them very forcefully of his presence.

The trial looks set to be very divisive.

It won't bring the country together in the way many of us thought it might.

Some Iraqis had wanted Saddam Hussein to be killed in various horrible ways.

But he represents a sense of pride that even people who suffered under him feel.

There is a complicated sense in which Iraqis are glad to be free of him, but already he has taken on a sort of nostalgic feeling of a great leader.

It will be difficult for the new government to deal with him as swiftly and cleanly as they hoped they could.


Edited by Lottie
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Sadam Mocks Accusers in court

Saddam Hussein arrived in chains at a palace complex once used by his inner circle for hunting, fishing and other pleasurable diversions.

The ex-Iraqi leader was flown to the complex by helicopter and brought to the makeshift courtroom in an armoured bus, escorted by four US military vehicles and a military ambulance.

The handcuffs, attached to a chain around his waist, were then removed, dropping to the floor outside the courtroom with a clatter.

He was then taken inside by two imposing Iraqi prison guards, while six other guards waited outside.

With free hands, the former president was able to jab his finger aggressively at the judge when he became animated, during the half-hour hearing to read out the seven preliminary charges against him.


Dressed in a grey pin-striped suit and white shirt - and looking thinner than before - the ex-Iraqi leader was at times defiant and at times subdued.

But he was wholly different from the submissive and dishevelled prisoner last seen by the world when he was captured in December.

One of the few reporters allowed in the courtroom, from Qatari-based al-Jazeera TV, said that at first Saddam Hussein refused to reply when he was asked to confirm his name.

"Are you Saddam Hussein?" the judge said.

Looking indignantly at the court official he replied: "Yes, Saddam Hussein, the president of the Republic of Iraq."

The judge then repeated "Saddam Hussein al-Majid?" using the former leader's full name.

"Saddam Hussein, the president of the Republic of Iraq," repeated the man in the dock, emphatically. Throughout the hearing he refused being referred to as the "former Iraqi president".

And when asked where he lived, Saddam Hussein replied:"I live in every Iraqi house."

This obstreperous attitude during the initial exchange seemed to set the tone for the whole hearing.

Legal dispute

"Under what law am I being tried here?" he asked the judge towards the end of the session.

How could you defend those dogs [the Kuwaitis]? They were trying to turn Iraqi women into 10-dinar prostitutes

When he was told that it was Iraqi justice, he mocked the judge and the proceedings.

Did he have a law certificate, the accused asked, and since when had he been recognised as a judge - before the occupation of Iraq or afterwards?

"Since the days of the previous regime until now," the judge replied, explaining that the former US-led occupation administration had asked him to hold the trial.

Saddam then laughed: "You are trying me by order of the invasion forces. By what law are you trying me?"

"I am trying you in accordance with the Iraqi law," the judge said.

"Then you are trying my by the law that I enacted," Saddam Hussein replied. "You are trying me by a law that I approved and ratified."

Angry response

As the charges were read out, Saddam Hussein became enraged when the judge got to the section involving the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

"How can you as an Iraqi talk about the 'Iraqi invasion of Kuwait'?

"Kuwait is Iraqi territory. It was not an invasion."

"How could you defend those dogs? They were trying to turn Iraqi women into 10-dinar prostitutes" [by undercutting the price of Iraqi oil].

He was rebuked for using insulting language by the judge, who told him this was not permitted in a court of law.

At another point, the former president looked around smilingly at the court and remarked: "This is all a theatre. The real villain is Bush."

Hesitant guards

Regarding charges over the chemical weapons attack on the Kurds of Halabja in 1988, he said he had heard about such attacks during his rule "on television".

And again he mocked the court when asked if he wanted it to provide lawyers to defend him.

"But everyone says, the Americans say, I have millions of dollars stashed away in Geneva. Why shouldn't I afford a lawyer?"

Not surprisingly then, at the end of the arraignment Saddam Hussein refused to sign the list of charges against him until he had a defence lawyer present.

At which point the guards were told to take the prisoner away.

One of them hesitated, apparently not quite knowing what to do with this man who less than 18 months ago was an all-powerful tyrant who ruled Iraq with a rod of iron.

Eventually, he tucked his hands under Saddam Hussein's elbows and led him away.


Edited by Lottie
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What I find bizzare is that Saddam looks better now then he ever has in his entire life. rolleyes.gif


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What I find bizzare is that Saddam looks better now then he ever has in his entire life.

lol i agree he looks a lot better now that hes lost some weight...but i hope he kept the beard it suits him. but 1 question...was there a rape charge on there? i mean didnt he have like 1000s of sex slaves? and bout 900 wives?

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