A not guilty plea has been entered from a defiant Saddam Hussein at the start of his trial in Baghdad.
After much argument and confusion, the hearing was adjourned until 28 November to give defence lawyers more time to read through the evidence, and for the prosecution to arrange the appearance of witnesses. The 68-year-old is being tried for crimes against humanity along with seven other former officials. When asked to formally declare his personal details, Saddam became annoyed:“You’re in Iraq, and you know who I am.” “I won’t answer to this so-called court,” he continued. “Who are you? What are you? The occupation is illegitimate. I retain my constitutional rights as the president of Iraq.” When the judge said: “You are Saddam Hussein al-Majid, former president of Iraq”, Saddam interrupted him and said: “I didn’t say former.” The ousted leader repeatedly refused to confirm his details, saying he would not recognize the court. He was told to sit down. Later, however, he did plead not guilty to charges of murder, torture and forced expulsions – crimes that carry the death penalty. In the first of several cases expected to be brought, Saddam is accused of ordering a massacre in the town of Dujail more than two decades ago. There were further heated exchanges between the judge and defence lawyers, who continued to question the court’s authority. The trial is being heard in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, with a small number of journalists and observers present in the courtroom.