Guards forcibly pulled a defense lawyer out of the courtroom and the chief judge shouted down Saddam Hussein yesterday in a stormy start to a new session of the trial of the former Iraqi president and members of his regime.
The squabble began when chief judge informed defense lawyer Bushra Khalil that she would be allowed to return to the court after being removed in a session last month 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 hearing defense witnesses. 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.
Hundreds of men, women and children from Dujail after a shooting attack on Saddam's motorcade in the town in 1982. Dozens died in prison, from torture and poor conditions, and 148 were sentenced to death by Saddam's Revolutionary Court for alleged connections to the assassination attempt.
Monday's first witness was a former staffer of the Revolutionary Court, Murshid Mohammed Jassim, testifying on behalf of defendant Awad al-Bandar, the judge who sentenced the 148 to death. Abdel-Rahman has accused al-Bandar of convicting the Shiites without a proper trial.