BAGHDAD, Iraq – Saddam Hussein's trial resumed Thursday without any of the eight defendants in the courtroom. The former Iraqi leader and four other defendants boycotted, and the chief judge said he barred the remainder for "disorderly behavior."
Judge Raouf Abdel-Rahman announced at the beginning of the session — which started more than an 90 minutes late — that the three defendants had caused "chaos" outside the courtroom. He did not elaborate.
With the eight defendant chairs empty in a pen in front of the bench, Abdel-Rahman ordered the proceedings to continue and the court began hearing the day's first witness.
Five of the defendants, including Saddam, also boycotted Wednesday's session. The trial has been plagued by shouting matches, scuffles and protests since it began Oct. 19.
Saddam and his co-defendants are on trial for the killing of more than 140 Shiites after the 1982 attempt on the former ruler's life in Dujail, north of Baghdad. They face death by hanging if convicted.
The original defense team chosen by Saddam and his co-defendants has petitioned the tribunal to remove Abdel-Rahman, saying they will not attend until he goes.
They accuse Abdel-Rahman, a Kurd, of having a "personal feud" with Saddam because the judge was born in Halabja, a Kurdish village hit by a poison gas attack allegedly ordered by Saddam in 1988. Some 5,000 Kurds were killed in that attack, including several of Abdel-Rahman's relatives.
Saddam's original chief attorney, Khaled al-Dulaimi, also claimed that Saddam's regime tried Abdel-Rahman in absentia and sentenced him to life in prison in 1977. He said the judge was a member of a Kurdish party that was opposed to Saddam and so "holds political animosity with the defendant."