BAGHDAD, Iraq – Guards forcibly pulled a defense lawyer out of the courtroom and the chief judge shouted down Saddam Hussein on Monday in a stormy start to a new session of the trial of the former Iraqi leader and members of his regime.
After the initial squabbling, the court heard the first two defense witnesses for Barzan Ibrahim, the former chief of Saddam's Mukhabarat intelligence service. One of them was Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hassan —a presidential adviser and, like Ibrahim, one of Saddam's half-brothers, who has been in U.S. custody since February 2005.
The arguments and shouting began when chief judge Raouf Abdel-Rahman informed defense lawyer Bushra Khalil that she would be allowed to return to the court after being removed in a session in April for arguing with the judge. But when she tried to make a statement, he quickly cut her off, saying, "Sit down."
"I just want to say one word," she said, but Abdel-Rahman yelled at the guards to take her away. In anger, Khalil shouted and pulled off her judicial robe and threw it on the floor, then tried to push away guards who were grabbing her hands, yelling, "Get away from me."
As she was pulled out of the court, Saddam — sitting in the defendants' pen — objected, and Abdel-Rahman told him to be silent. "I'm Saddam Hussein, president of Iraq. I am above all," Saddam shouted back.
"You are a defendant now, not a president," the judge barked.
The uproar was in contrast to recent sessions that have been remarkably orderly, after Abdel-Rahman took a tough line to put a stop to frequent outbursts by Saddam and his co-defendants. Abdel-Rahman first removed the Lebanese-born Khalil, the only woman on the defense team, in an April 5 session after she objected to a video of Saddam shown by prosecutors.
After the outbursts, the court resumed heard defense witnesses for four hours, then adjourned until Wednesday. Saddam and seven former members of his regime face possible execution by hanging if convicted on charges of crimes against humanity in a crackdown against Shiites in the town Dujail in the 1980s.