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Hussein threatens to skip court

Five witnesses describe brutalities under regime in '80s

Saddam Hussein listens to Chief Judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin during Tuesday's proceedings.



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Saddam Hussein

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The trial of Saddam Hussein adjourned for the day Tuesday, with the former Iraqi leader indicating he's unlikely to return when the court reconvenes Wednesday.

"I will not be in a court without justice. Go to hell, all you agents of America," Hussein said.

His announcement came after five witnesses testified about brutalities they experienced during a government crackdown 23 years ago.

Hussein and seven other defendants are on trial in connection with the deaths of more than 140 men in Dujail, a town north of Baghdad. The 1982 killings were considered retribution for a failed assassination attempt on Hussein.

The testimony coincided with the suicide bombing of a police academy in Baghdad. Two attackers detonated themselves, killing at least 36 people, police said. (Full story)

The witnesses -- three men and two women sitting behind a curtain with voices disguised by a modulator -- described beatings, electrocutions and deaths in 1982. Hussein and the Baath Party were firmly in power then, and the country was at war with Iran, a crucial period in the nation's history.

Fears of retribution by Saddam loyalists forced the court to shield the witnesses' identities. Witnesses are allowed to have their voices altered to hide their identities from the defendants, media and people in the visitors' gallery -- but not from the judges or attorneys.

Breaking down in tears, a woman identified only as "Witness A" described mistreatment by Iraqi intelligence officers while at Abu Ghraib prison 20 years ago and then captivity in the desert. She said she was beaten with cables and given electric shocks.

She also described the torture of family members and other prisoners and the destruction of homes and orchards. (Watch report of woman's dramatic testimony -- 1:24)

After her came an older woman identified as "Witness B" and a man identified as "Witness C."

The latter testified that he was 12 when he was rounded up in 1982. He said that he was taken first to Baath Party headquarters in Dujail, then to Baghdad, where he was tortured and sent to Abu Ghraib jail. He eventually was taken to a desert prison camp, where he spent four years before being returned to Dujail. ( Watch a roundup of the emotional testimony and Hussein's angry response -- 3:19)

Asked which of the defendants he held accountable, Witness C testified that he saw defendant Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, Hussein's half brother, at the Baath headquarters in Dujail.

During his cross-examination of Witness C, al-Tikriti acknowledged that he was at Baath headquarters but recalled a different encounter.

"Don't you remember? I was there. I kissed 60 men. I shook their hands, and I set them free," al-Tikriti said.

Defense attorneys questioned the accuracy of Witness C's childhood recollections.

A man testifying as "Witness D" said that he hasn't seen his son since the 16-year-old was whisked away in 1982.

The man said that after Hussein's ouster, papers were discovered indicating his son had died.

The defense pounced on this detail, questioning its authenticity.

"Witness E" also described abuse that followed the Dujail roundup.

More subdued session

Tuesday's nine-hour session was more controlled than Monday's chaotic proceeding, which was punctuated by Hussein's outbursts. Chief Judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin, in charge of the proceeding, attempted to keep the unnamed witnesses on point.

At the end of the day, Hussein complained that he had been wearing the same shirt and underwear for three days. He said he's tired and indicated that he isn't inclined to carry on Wednesday -- when two more witnesses are scheduled to testify.

The ex-dictator said the United States wants to execute him and finish off what he called the theater of Saddam Hussein.

He also said he wanted to know why he and the other defendants were not asked whether they had been tortured.

More hiccups came in the form of technical glitches during the day's proceedings.

Defense lawyers complained during Witness A's testimony that the equipment disguising her voice made it difficult to understand her, which prompted the judge to order that her voice modulator be turned off.

During Witness B's testimony, the judge shut off the modulation system because he thought it wasn't operating properly. But in shutting it off, all feeds from the courtroom were cut as well.

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

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