BAGHDAD, Iraq – Saddam Hussein told the court during the latest session of his trial Tuesday that he was on hunger strike to protest tough stances by the chief judge.
The former Iraqi leader shouted his support for Iraqi insurgents, yelling "Long live the mujahedeen," as he entered the courtroom and immediately began a heated exchange with judge Raouf Abdel-Rahman.
"For three days we have been holding a hunger strike protesting against your way in treating us — against you and your masters," Saddam told Abdel-Rahman.
In Monday's session, Abdel-Rahman ordered the eight defendants to attend the court despite a boycott by their original defense team.
When Abdel-Rahman banged his gavel and rebuked him for not standing when he addressed the court, Saddam retorted: "Hit your own head with that gavel."
One of the co-defendants, Awad Hamed al-Bandar, also said he was not eating. Saddam did not mention a hunger strike in Monday's session.
Saddam's half-brother and co-defendant Barzan Ibrahim entered the court Tuesday shouting "Long live the Baath," referring to Saddam's former ruling party. For the second straight day, the former head of Saddam's intelligence service wore a long-sleeved undershirt and long underwear to show his rejection of the court.
When Abdel-Rahman told him to "Shut up," Ibrahim replied, "Don't tell me to shut up. I am a person like you — even better than you."
Calm was quickly restored, however, and the court began hearing the day's first prosecution witness — a former intelligence official who testified from behind a curtain to maintain his anonymity.
Saddam and his seven co-defendants are on trial in the killing of nearly 150 Shiite Muslims during a 1982 crackdown in Dujail following an attempt on Saddam's life. If convicted, they could face the death penalty by hanging.
On Monday, the prosecution made its strongest attempt yet to link Saddam personally to the slayings, producing execution orders with his signatures and putting members of his regime on the witness stand for the first time.
The prosecution intended to call more regime figures Tuesday — including Fadel Mohammed, an intelligence official, and Hamed Youssef Hamadi, who was a minister of culture under Saddam, in addition to the anonymous intelligence official.
Twenty-six prosecution witnesses have testified since the trial began Oct. 19, many providing accounts of torture and imprisonment in the crackdown, but they could not directly pin them on Saddam.