BAGHDAD, (Reuters) – Iraq”s Saddam Hussein will attend his trial on Wednesday after boycotting the previous hearing and telling the judges to "go to hell," one of his defence lawyers said on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, a prosecutor in the case said he still had "a lot of striking evidence" to present which would ensure Saddam was convicted on charges of crimes against humanity.
Saddam effectively boycotted the last trial hearing on Dec. 7 after dismissing the proceedings as a sham and complaining about the conditions of his detention. The previous evening he had shouted "go to hell" at the judges as they left court.
The former president”s boycott delayed proceedings before chief judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin opted to push ahead without him. Saddam was absent for just one session before Amin adjourned the trial until Dec. 21.
Scotching rumours that Saddam would continue to stay away, one of his lawyers said his client would be back in court in the morning. "President Saddam will appear … unless something unexpected happens," Khamis al-Ubeidi told Reuters on Tuesday.
Court officials and one of the prosecutors also said they expected Saddam to attend what will be the sixth session since the stop-start and often chaotic trial began on Oct. 19.
The prosecutor, who asked not to be named, said he expected four or five plaintiffs to testify against Saddam and his seven co-defendants on Wednesday.
So far eight prosecution witnesses have given evidence, telling the court of torture and other abuses they suffered under Saddam.
The court is expected to adjourn again this week, possibly after just one session, before resuming in January.
Prosecutors want Saddam and the others to be convicted for the killings of 148 people from Dujail, north of Baghdad, saying Saddam ordered the killings in reprisal for an attempt to assassinate him in the town in 1982 when he was president.
Saddam may also face trial on other charges including ones related to the 1990 invasion of Kuwait, repression of Shi”ite and Kurdish opponents, and the killing of political foes.
The prosecutor said he would produce evidence that includes documents allegedly signed by Saddam ordering the Dujail killings. "When they see these documents, the whole world will convict Saddam and his followers," the prosecuter said.
Defence lawyer Aubeidi said he was still worried about security for the defence team, two of whom have been killed and one wounded in attacks by gunmen since the trial started.
He said former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, part of the team, had asked U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to intervene directly to ensure there was proper protection for defence lawyers and witnesses.
Another of Saddam”s defence lawyers said in a newspaper interview published on Tuesday that he had uncovered a plot to kill himself and Clark.