June 5, 2006

Saddam defense team disputes Dujail killings

By Ahmed Rasheed and Fredrik Dahl

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Saddam Hussein's defense team sought to
tear a hole in the case against him on Monday, saying that 10
people out of 148 said to have been killed after an attempt on
his life were still alive 24 years later.

"We contest the authenticity of the documents presented in
this case," a defense lawyer said after reading out a list of
their names in the heavily-protected Baghdad courtroom.

"I demand the halting of the court proceedings."

Saddam, who stands accused of crimes against humanity
together with seven other defendants for bloody reprisals
unleashed after gunmen tried to kill him in 1982, also disputed
prosecution evidence, saying it was "false and not real."

Chief Judge Raouf Abdel Rahman said angrily: "All of you
keep repeating the same phrase, that this court is invalid ...
even people in the streets know this phrase by heart."

At the trial, which began in October, Saddam and his
co-accused face charges in connection with the killings of 148
Shi'ite Muslims after the failed assassination bid in the small
town of Dujail, north of Baghdad.

The defendants have pleaded "not guilty" or, like Saddam,
were ruled to have so pleaded after contesting the U.S.-backed
court's legitimacy. If convicted, they could be hanged.


Defense lawyers, who started presenting witnesses last
month after the completion of the prosecution case, have
accused the prosecution of trying to buy a witness and putting
on the stand a man who perjured himself.

They protested against last week's arrest of four of their
witnesses on suspicion of making false allegations against the
prosecution, saying they had been beaten and insulted.

On Sunday, Saddam's main lawyer, in an interview with
Reuters, said the court was bullying and intimidating the
defense team and its witnesses to try to undermine its case.

The lawyer who read the names of people he said were still
alive said one of those listed among the Dujail dead, Ali
Hussain Mohammad, was now a lawyer himself.

"I demand that the court ask the bar about him."

He also named five others who he said had died but not in
1982, including two who were killed in the 1980s Iran-Iraq war.

A defense witness told the court last week that 23 of the
148 believed killed from Dujail were still alive.