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Hussein trial adjourned amid courtroom rancor

Defendants complain about court-appointed attorneys

Saddam Hussein argues with the judge in the case, protesting at interference by the "occupiers."


Saddam Hussein

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The chief judge in Saddam Hussein's trial adjourned proceedings Monday until December 5 after defendants complained about their attorneys.

The defendants said they weren't pleased with court-appointed lawyers and they also wanted replacements for two attorneys who were killed recently.

The slayings of defense attorneys Sadoon Janabi and Adil Muhammed al-Zubaidi have made security a key issue in the trial. Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark who is advising the defense team called security "totally inadequate."

Defendants also raised concerns about court processes, health care and death threats.

The eight defendants are accused in the 1982 slayings of more than 140 civilians in the town of Dujail, north of Baghdad, after an unsuccessful assassination attempt against Hussein.

In Monday's proceedings, Hussein argued with the judge and railed against Iraq's "occupiers."

Carrying a copy of the Quran under his arm, Hussein complained to Judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin that his pen and paper had been taken from him.

"Why would you confiscate my papers and the pen that I need? How should I defend myself?" he asked.

The judge asked Hussein why he was slightly late to court, and the ex-dictator said he had had to climb several flights of stairs because of a broken elevator.

"They brought me here to the door, and I was handcuffed. They cannot bring the defendant in handcuffs," Hussein said.

Amin said he would inform police.

"I don't want you to tell them, I want you to order them," Hussein replied. "They are invaders and occupiers, and you have to order them."

People watching the trial at a cafe at Baghdad's Babylon Hotel had strong reactions to the day's brief proceedings.

Duraid Fadhel said he hopes the legal process is thorough and fair because "we do not want to hear people complain by saying that Saddam was executed without a trial."

Sabah Hashim said the "end of this trial means the end of Saddam, so the delays will give hope for some people who think that Saddam might come to power again and the time will repeat itself."

"We want to see an end to this trial anyhow, so we can cross to another shore and start a new life," he said.

Defense concerns

Complaints about defense attorneys began after a brief recess when former Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan stood up in court and said he wanted new lawyers and indicated he wasn't pleased with his court-appointed counsel.

Ramadan's attorney, al-Zubaidi, was shot and killed in a November 8 attack that left another lawyer wounded. Ramadan had appointed three lawyers to represent him, and the two surviving ones have left the country.

Hussein's half brother, defendant Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, said he wants the ex-Iraqi leader's attorneys to represent him.

Al-Tikriti also said he has cancer and needs proper care and treatment. He said he had forwarded to the judge an application for medical treatment, but Amin said he had not received it. Al-Tikriti said that if a delay over that application lingers, "it will be indirect death."

Awad Hamad Bandar, former chief judge of Hussein's Revolutionary Court, said he and Hussein had received death threats, and the chief judge said he would look into their concerns.

On October 20, a day after the Dujail trial began, Bandar's attorney, Janabi, was kidnapped and fatally shot in the head.

Clark questions security

Clark, U.S. attorney general under President Lyndon Johnson, was added to the defense team Monday as an adviser. (Watch Clark explain his goals -- 2:23)

Clark said that he will ask the Iraqi High Tribunal to provide proper security for the defense team and their families.

"Unless there is protection for the defense, I don't see how the trials can go forward," he said. Presently, "the negotiations for protection are made public, which means they are disclosing what the protection would be."

Clark said security issues were raised during Monday's proceedings but there was no "real reaction" and "we'll have to raise it when we come back."

Clark has been a civil rights attorney and controversial activist in recent years. He opposed the Iraq war and met with Hussein in February 2003, just before the U.S.-led invasion began.

Najeeb Nuaimi, a former Qatari justice minister, also was added to the defense team.

Basam Ridha, adviser to Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, denounced Clark's role in the trial, saying that he was silent when atrocities were committed in Iraq during the Hussein era.

Clark "does not have friends in Iraq" and "has no business being in Iraq right now," Ridha said. "Tomorrow, I guarantee you the Iraqi people will be outside in Baghdad at the courthouse demonstrating against Mr. Clark."

Ridha said Clark has been ordered to provide "proper documentation" for his role in the court.

First testimony

Monday's proceeding was long enough for Hussein and his seven co-defendants to watch a videotaped deposition from a deceased former Iraqi official about events in the mostly Shiite town of Dujail.

Hussein quietly watched the videotaped testimony of Wadah al-Sheikh -- a former senior member of the Iraqi intelligence service -- who tied a number of the defendants to the deaths.

Al-Sheikh died from cancer last month after recording his testimony. At the time of his testimony, no defense attorneys showed up despite arrangements made by the court for them to appear in person or by telephone, an official said.

The trial began October 19 but was postponed that same day to the end of November to give the defense more time to engage in the discovery process.

CNN's Nic Robertson and Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report.

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