BAGHDAD, Iraq – The chief judge in Saddam Hussein's trial threw out one of the top defendants amid fierce arguments Wednesday as the prosecution and defense accused each other's witnesses of lying.
Guards hustled former intelligence chief Barzan Ibrahim out of the courtroom after he rebuked chief judge Raouf Abdel-Rahman for warning a defense witness that he could be prosecuted if he was not telling the truth on the stand.
Ibrahim told Abdel-Rahman he should be more "patient," saying, "I believe we should hear the witness and take what is useful and ignore what is not useful."
"Every session you have a lecture," Abdel-Rahman snapped at Ibrahim, shouting for him to sit down.
When Ibrahim argued back, Abdel-Rahman shouted, "Get him out of the court," and three guards escorted Ibrahim away, one of them holding him by the wrist.
After the court heard five defense witnesses, it was adjourned until Monday. Abdel-Rahman did not say whether Ibrahim — who was thrown out once earlier in the trial — would be allowed back.
The disturbance came after the defense witness alleged that chief prosecutor Jaafar al-Moussawi tried to pay him to make up testimony against Saddam and his seven co-defendants in the trial. Al-Moussawi accused the defense of coaching the witness in "fabricated" testimony.
The defense, in turn, accused a prosecution witness of committing perjury, part of a new stepped-up attack aimed at discrediting the evidence presented so far. The defense demanded the trial be halted to allow an investigation into the veracity of all those the prosecution has brought to the stand.
The defense showed a DVD in court, saying it proved that Ali al-Haidari lied in testimony he gave in December about a crackdown against Shiites launched by Saddam's regime following an attack on the then-Iraqi leader in 1982 in the town of Dujail.
Al-Haidari testified that he was arrested at age 14 in the Dujail sweep and was tortured with electrical shocks and beatings. He also said there was no shooting attack on Saddam in Dujail on July 8, 1982 — only celebratory shooting to mark the former Iraqi leader's visit.
The DVD showed al-Haidari addressing a 2004 ceremony in Dujail and praising the attack on Saddam as an attempt by "sons of Dujail ... to kill the greatest tyrant in modern history."
"He's ... contradicting his testimony," defense lawyer Ziyad al-Najdawi told the court. "We ask that he be investigated for perjury."
"Now that it's been proven that (al-Haidari) has given an untrue testimony, we ask that the trial proceedings be stopped to allow for an investigation into the veracity of the other prosecution testimony," he said.
Al-Moussawi said al-Haidari's speech at the ceremony was irrelevant because it was not given in court under oath.
Abdel-Rahman did not rule on the defense's request.
Saddam and his co-defendants face possible execution by hanging if convicted on the charges. They are accused of arresting hundreds of Dujail families in the crackdown, torturing and killing women and children and killing 148 Shiites who were sentenced to death for the assassination attempt.
A defense witness testified that al-Moussawi met him at a U.S. military base where the witness worked in 2004 and tried to pay him to make up testimony against Saddam.
"He gave me $500. ... He told me to say that my father was arrested and killed in detention," the anonymous witness said from behind a curtain to protect him from reprisals.
Al-Moussawi accused the defense of making up the testimony. "There has been a fabricated attack on the prosecution in the past two days," he said. "I want this witness investigated and want him to face criminal charges and it must be determined who recruited him to fabricate his testimony," he said.
Defense lawyer Mohammed Munib argued Wednesday that the two foundations of the prosecution's case — witnesses and an array of documents it presented detailing the Dujail crackdown — have been thrown into doubt in light of the perjury allegation and the testimony of a defense witness Tuesday.
That witness claimed that 23 of the 148 Shiites sentenced to death by Saddam's regime were still alive and that he had met some of them in Dujail recently.
Abdel-Rahman ordered an investigation into the witness' claim.
Munib said the entire discovery process in the case should be redone and all the prosecution witnesses reviewed.
"What we have seen has affected the basic evidence on which the prosecution has depended," Munib said. "This is the heart of the issue, and it can't be avoided or ignored."
He said that if the investigation discovered that some of those sentenced to death were still alive, then it proved that prosecution documents showing that 148 were killed were "fabricated."
The documents are seen as the strongest piece of the prosecution's case. It has presented a wide array of memos and letters from Saddam's presidential office and the Mukhabarat intelligence agency with names of 399 men, women and children imprisoned in the Dujail sweep and the 148 sentenced to death. The documents showed that some of the 148 were children and that others were tortured to death before they even reached their trial.
The prosecution says the documents show that the Dujail crackdown went far beyond a simple investigation into the perpetrators of the attack on Saddam to punish the entire Shiite population of Dujail.
The defense played a second DVD on Wednesday aiming to support its contention that the razing of farmlands in Dujail that took place during the crackdown was not a retaliation against its residents for the attack on Saddam. The defense has said it was part of a program to rebuild and modernize Dujail.
The video showed Saddam giving a speech before a cheering crowd in Dujail declaring that now that the farmlands were destroyed, "we have a lot of land and can let everyone from Dujail have a house."