BAGHDAD, Iraq – The chief judge threw Saddam Hussein and another defendant out of court Tuesday after the ex-president shouted during his trial on charges of genocide against the Kurds.
The five other defendants were absent when proceedings resumed after a brief recess.
The judge, Mohammed Oreibi al-Khalifa, cut off the microphone as Saddam attempted to speak. He then pointed to court bailiffs to escort the ex-president from the courtroom.
Saddam interrupted the proceedings by shouting a verse from the Koran, the Muslim holy book.
"Fight them and God will punish them," Saddam yelled in what appeared to be a call for members of his disbanded Arab Baath Socialist Party to continue fighting U.S. forces in Iraq.
In TV broadcasts of the scene, neither Saddam's words nor the judge's voice were heard. The camera showed the judge gesticulating to the bailiffs to remove somebody from the dock. The camera did not show Saddam's outburst.
The judge then closed the proceedings to the media.
Before the closure, the judge told Saddam's six co-defendants that he had been patient with them, but they were obstructing the trial.
"I allowed you to say what you want, but you've been making problems," he said solemnly.
Defendant Hussein Rashid Mohammed stood up and shouted insults at the prosecutors. When a bailiff forced him back into his chair, the former army commander punched him.
The judge had Mohammed thrown out and closed the session. The court took a brief recess to reconvene later in the absence of all seven defendants. It was not immediately clear if al-Khalifa also ejected the remaining five defendants.
Saddam and his cousin "Chemical" Ali Hassan al-Majid face charges of genocide in the trial. The other five face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity during a crackdown on Iraq's Kurdish population — codenamed Operation Anfal — in the late 1980s in which about 180,000 people were killed.
If convicted, the defendants could be sentenced to death by hanging.
The defendants are represented by court-appointed lawyers because their own attorneys have boycotted proceedings since Sept. 24. They are protesting the dismissal of the first chief judge, who was seen as soft on Saddam, and the court's refusal to allow the defense time to examine thousands of documents.
In Tuesday's hearing, the court heard a Kurdish woman, who testified from behind a curtain to conceal her identity, recount that women were raped and children died in detention during the 1988 campaign.
Upon her request, the chief judge cut off the microphones after she was asked if she knew of any cases of pregnancy and abortion in her detention camp.
Reporters in court said they heard a brief part of her testimony in which she said she saw wardens in the detention camp take women away at night, apparently to rape them. No other details were immediately available.
The woman, who spent 6 1/2 months in detention, also claimed that Saddam's forces used chemicals against the detainees.
"One evening, men walked into our detention hall, wearing (chemical) suits and masks and sprayed us with a material that caused the spread of lice and other diseases, like bronchial coughing," she said in Kurdish through an Arabic interpreter.
"Many children died as a result," said the woman.
The witness also testified that pregnant women were treated inhumanely. She said one woman had given birth in a toilet. Fellow detainees helped her "cut the umbilical cord with broken glass and the baby was wrapped in a grain sack."
She said all her family members disappeared in 1988 and are presumed dead.