Reporter's Notebook: Trial Drama
BAGHDAD, Iraq – oFOX News correspondent Dana Lewis is in Baghdad's Green Zone covering the trial of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and his codefendants.
Late last night as I made my way back to my room in Baghdad's Green Zone, I had a moment to talk to members of Saddam Hussein's defense team. In the hotel elevator, former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark remained quiet, but two other members of the defense team — Issam Al-Ghazzawi from Jordan and Naji Al-Nuaimi of Qatar warned me of the impending storm.
No way would they allow the judge in Saddam's trial to bulldoze ahead and begin to call witnesses before the defense had its say, they told me.
When the trial resumed Monday morning, Saddam casually walked into court smiling directly at me and several reporters in the press area (another sign something was brewing).
Lawyers, including Clark, were on their feet demanding to talk about the legality of the court and the issue of security for lawyers.
The judge first demanded they sit down, then promised to read their written submissions. But the first witness would be called to testify.
Clark said the defense would file submissions, but wanted to talk for a moment. Another lawyer for Saddam said, "we're seeking justice, you can't slam the door in our face."
Over the next 45 minutes, all the lawyers on the defense team spent time on their feet, demanding to be heard. The judge kept insisting the court was legal, and if the defense didn't yield, he would appoint other lawyers.
Finally, the legal team up and walked out.
And Saddam stood and started chanting, "long live Iraq, long live the Arab nation." He said he wouldn't accept "court-appointed lawyers," calling them the court's American employees. "This is a law made by Americans and it doesn't recognize Iraqi sovereignty," he said.
This was expected — court theatrics to stall the process.
A U.S. source close to the proceedings told me the court has been waiting for this, believing the defense team is "gaming them," or buying for time, trying to disrupt the proceedings.
Immediately after the defense team walked out, the judge called a 10-minute recess, which as I now write this, has turned into an hour and 10.
High drama. Slow justice.