BAGHDAD, Iraq, AP – Saddam Hussein was hospitalized Sunday on the 17th day of a hunger strike started to protest courtroom procedures and the killings of defense lawyers, the chief prosecutor in his trial said.
Jaafar al-Moussawi said he visited the prison Sunday where Saddam and the seven other co-defendants are held and was told that the ex-president’s health “is unstable because of the hunger strike.”
“We took him to hospital and he is being currently fed by a tube,” al-Moussawi told The Associated Press. He refused to identify the hospital.
Asked if Saddam’s health had improved, al-Moussawi replied: “No, it is not stable yet.”
Saddam, 69, and three others — presumed to be co-defendants Barzan Ibrahim, Taha Yassin Ramadan and Awad al-Bandar — have been refusing food since dinner on July 7 to protest the Iraqi High Tribunal procedures and security for their defense attorneys, three of whom have been slain.
The action was launched after the June 21 slaying of Khamis al-Obeidi, the third member of the defense team to be assassinated since the trial began in October. The defense team has blamed Shiite militiamen for al-Obeidi’s death.
In a letter to the court, the defense said it wanted U.S. authorities to provide security for the lawyers and their families. It also demanded a 45-day recess to allow it to prepare closing statements and a promise from the court that it would be allowed to take as long as it wishes to present its final arguments.
Court spokesman Raid Juhi said the defense had rejected an offer of the same security precaution given to the judges and prosecution lawyers: residence inside the Green Zone, the fortified Baghdad neighborhood where the court is located.
Saddam and the others are charged in a crackdown on Shiites in the town of Dujail following a 1982 assassination attempt against the Iraqi leader. Final summations have begun, and the next session is set for Monday.
Court officials have predicted that verdicts would come in mid-August. Saddam and the other three top defendants could face execution by hanging if convicted on the charges.
Saddam also is set to go on trial Aug. 21 for a 1980s crackdown that killed an estimated 100,000 Kurds.