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Witness at Hussein trial describes alleged torture

Day's testimony concludes after delayed start

Saddam Hussein and his half brother Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti shout at the court during their tribunal Monday.


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Saddam Hussein

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The trial of Saddam Hussein adjourned Monday afternoon, concluding a day of delays and testimony by a witness describing the alleged torture of a man from a Shiite village in 1982: "They broke all his body parts."

Eight defendants, including Hussein, are on trial in connection with the deaths of more than 140 men 23 years ago in the mostly Shiite town of Dujail. The killings are considered retribution for a failed assassination attempt on Hussein.

Hussein called the testimony "laughable" and said, "I am not afraid of execution."

Ahmed Hassan Mohammed, a resident of Dujail, told the court how he and others -- including women and children -- were rounded up and transported to intelligence headquarters in Baghdad, where they were tortured. The women, including young girls, were raped, sometimes before the eyes of the men, he said.

He named his torturers and their relations to the defendants on trial and graphically and tearfully described what he saw.

Of one man, Mohammed said: "They broke him. Broke his arm, his leg. This is during torture. They also shot at his foot, all of that during interrogation. He died under torture. They broke all his body parts."

Mohammed described seeing Hussein's half brother and co-defendant, Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, wearing a cowboy hat, red boots and carrying an assault rifle.

The testimony prompted al-Tikriti, seated behind Hussein in the courtroom, to stand and call out, "That's a lie!"

Hussein, listening with close attention, also interrupted the witness on several occasions.

As Mohammed began, Hussein said, "Rest assured I will not touch you." He told Mohammed to tell the court what he had to say.

The defendants and their attorneys accused Mohammed of being coached on his testimony.

Al-Tikriti questioned Mohammed's ability to recall with such detail events that allegedly happened when he was 15 years old. Al-Tikriti demanded that people who gave the information to the witness also be called to testify.

"I question everything he said," al-Tikriti said. "I swear that everything he said is false."

Former Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan called Mohammed "a liar."

Defense walks out, prompts delay

The trial was delayed for 90 minutes when the defense walked out because the presiding judge refused to hear their complaints.

The trial resumed after the judge reversed himself and agreed the attorneys could present oral arguments about the fairness and legitimacy of the proceedings.

Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, a member of the defense team, said all parties were entitled to protection, and that the measures offered to protect defense lawyers and their families were "absurd."

"Not only are the lives of all these people at risk, the very function of the judiciary is at risk," Clark said. "If every form of participation is not protected, the judicial system will fail and will be destroyed."

Two lawyers -- one representing Ramadan, the other representing Awad Hamad Bandar, the former chief judge of Hussein's Revolutionary Court -- have been killed within the past month.

Former Qatari Justice Minister Najib Nuaimi argued that international law did not support the creation of the court by the U.S.-backed authority.

"The occupation [by U.S. forces] is illegitimate," he said, "and the illegitimacy of the occupation results in the illegitimacy of the establishment of the court."

Meanwhile, one of the judges serving on the tribunal has recused himself because one co-defendant may have been involved in the execution of the judge's brother, said a Western official close to the trial.

The judge received a document showing a defendant was involved in a death warrant that led to his brother's execution, the Western official said.

The judge said he could not remain impartial any more.

CNN's Aneesh Raman and Nic Robertson contributed to this report.

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