BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) – Saddam Hussein”s trial was delayed Wednesday after the ousted president refused to attend the session, court officials said. Defense lawyers huddled with the judges in hopes of resolving the latest test of wills in the often-unruly trial.
An angry Saddam threatened at the end of the Tuesday session to boycott the next day”s proceedings after complaining he and the seven other co-defendants had been mistreated by the "unjust court."
Court officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said Saddam stuck by his refusal Wednesday and the judges were trying to decide whether to proceed without him.
If the differences cannot be resolved, the official said the courtmight hold a closed session to try to resolve them, another official said, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn”t authorized to talk with the media.
Saddam”s threat not to attend the Wednesday session came at the end of a daylong session in which five witnesses, two women and three men, related the events of a 1982 crackdown on Shiite Muslims. The most dramatic testimony came from a woman who spoke behind a beige curtain and with her voice disguised. She told of beatings, torture and sexual humiliation at the hands of security agents when she was a teenager.
At the end of the Tuesday session, the judges agreed over defense objections to meet again the following day. Saddam shouted that "I will not come to an unjust court! Go to hell!"
Saddam, dressed again in a dark suit and white shirt and clutching a Quran, complained that he and the seven other defendants were tired and had been deprived of opportunities to shower, have a change of clothes, exercise or go for a smoke. "This is terrorism," he declared.
Throughout the trial, which began Oct. 19, Saddam has repeatedly staged confrontations with the court and attempted to take control of the proceedings with dramatic rhetorical flourishes.
Saddam and the others are charged in the deaths of more than 140 Shiite Muslims in retaliation for an assassination attempt against him in the town of Dujail in 1982. Saddam accused Iran of ordering the attempt on his life.
Five witnesses, two women and three men, testified Tuesday in the fourth session of the trial, all of them hidden from the public view and with their voices disguised to protect their identities.
The most compelling testimony came from the woman identified only as "Witness A," who was a 16-year-old girl at the time of the crackdown. Her voice breaking with emotion, she told the court of beatings and electric shocks by the former president”s agents.
"I was forced to take off my clothes, and he raised my legs up and tied my hands. He continued administering electric shocks and whipping me and telling me to speak," Witness A said of Wadah al-Sheik, an Iraqi intelligence officer who died of cancer last month while in American custody.
The woman, speaking from behind a beige curtain, broke down several times as she struggled to maintain her composure. "God is great. Oh, my Lord!" she said, moaning.
"Witness A" strongly suggested she had been raped, but did not say so outright. When Chief Judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin asked her about the "assault," she said: "I was beaten up and tortured by electrical shocks" but repeated that she had been ordered to undress.
"They made me put my legs up. There were more than one of them, as if I were their banquet, maybe more than five people, all of them officers," she said.
"Is that what happens to the virtuous woman that Saddam speaks about?" she wept, prompting the judge to advise her to stick to the facts.
She later quoted a security officer as telling her, "You should thank your God because you are here in the Intelligence Center. If you were in the directorate of security, no woman would remain a virgin."
Nevertheless, she also said security guards raped many fellow female detainees.
When asked by the judge which of the defendants she wanted to accuse, «Witness A» identified Saddam. "When so many people are jailed and tortured, who makes such a decision?" she said.