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In video, Saddam slams Iraqi proceeding

Ex-dictator decries lack of legal aid, says panel under U.S. thumb

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Saddam Hussein appears in court in video footage released Thursday.

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(CNN) -- In video of a legal proceeding that aired Thursday, Saddam Hussein ridiculed Iraq's new government and decried his lack of access to counsel in the war crimes cases against him.

In the footage, the former Iraqi dictator asked for his attorney and criticized his inability to see the lawyer before trial.

"By law, a lawyer should be with the defendant," Saddam said. "Is it fair that the lawyer cannot see the defendant except in court sessions?"

Critics of Saddam's regime have said the ousted leader would have the kinds of legal rights at trial that he never gave citizens during his reign.

The video footage -- first broadcast on Al-Arabiya TV but also released to CNN -- had poor audio quality but could be heard well enough to reveal an aging but confident man.

Al-Arabiya, the Dubai-based Arabic-language network, said the hearing took place July 21.

Earlier this week, the Iraqi Special Tribunal brought its first charges against the former dictator in connection with a series of executions in 1982 after an assassination attempt against him north of Baghdad. No trial date has been set. (Full story)

Saddam's attorneys have said that he should not be tried for anything because he is immune to all charges under the Iraqi constitution as it was written under his rule.

He has been in custody since U.S. troops captured him in December 2003.

In the video, Saddam appeared defiant, although his voice sounded frail and a bit tired. He was bearded and wore a white shirt and gray jacket.

The official presiding over the session tried to explain to him that it was a hearing and that he was in the custody of the Iraqi government.

Saddam interrupted, asking, "Which government?"

The official attempted to answer, but Saddam said, "I am detained and this is a game. ... I am detained by the Iraqi government, which is appointed by the Americans."

Saddam continued to interrupt the session several times. At one point, the presiding official raised his voice to quiet the former ruler. When that did not work, he lifted his hand and gestured for Saddam to stop speaking.

In what appeared to be a reading of the charges, the phrase "expropriation of property belonging to Iraqi Kurds and Shiite Muslims" could be heard.

The video also showed Saddam reviewing and signing documents on his lap.

Raed Juhi, chief investigative judge of the tribunal, announced the war crimes charges against Saddam on Sunday.

On July 8, 1982, a small group attacked a convoy carrying the Iraqi leader through Dujayl, a Shiite village north of Baghdad. A series of detentions and executions in the town followed the failed assassination attempt.

According to the tribunal, 15 people were summarily executed, and some 1,500 others spent years in prison with no charges and without trial dates. Ultimately, another 143 people had "show trials" and were executed, the tribunal said.

CNN's Octavia Nasr contributed to this report.

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