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Hussein angrily walks out on new judge

Former Iraqi leader leaves after half brother removed

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Saddam Hussein stormed out of the courtroom at his war crimes trial Sunday after a new chief judge had his half brother forcibly removed from the proceedings by four guards.

The trial's new chief judge, Raouf Rasheed Abdel-Rahman, wielded a heavy hand in trying to establish order in the courtroom, resulting in the expulsion of one defendant -- Barzan Hassan -- and a defense attorney.

The expulsions prompted other members of the defense team to walk out, followed by Hussein and two other defendants.

The walkouts prompted a recess, and when the trial resumed, the court had appointed six new defense attorneys.

After three witnesses testified, the court went into recess until Wednesday or Thursday.

In the opening moments of the proceedings, which had been delayed five days while two new judges were seated, Rahman told the court that "political speeches" would not be tolerated. "Any accused who oversteps the line will be thrown out of court and will be tried in absentia," he said.

Hassan, Hussein's half brother and former chief of intelligence, began to challenge the court's legitimacy, calling it the "daughter of a whore."

"I will not allow you to insult this court," Abdel-Rahman said.

After an exchange, Hassan was dragged from the courtroom. Several defense team lawyers stood, and one attorney began screaming at Abdel-Rahman, prompting the judge to say, "This is not a platform."

The judge had the attorney removed from the court, leading the rest of the defense team to say they were leaving.

As the attorneys prepared to go, the judge warned them that if they did so, they would not be allowed back inside the courtroom for any other sessions. But the defense attorneys -- among them Hussein's chief defense attorney -- walked out.

Hussein protested after Abdel-Rahman brought court-appointed defense attorneys in. "I don't want these lawyers, and if they insist on staying here, they are evil," he said.

He took umbrage, however, when Abdel-Rahman told him he was permitted to leave.

"You cannot force me to be in court," he said. "This is my right."

"For 35 years I have run your rights," Hussein said. "And I understand my right and the right of others interrupted by the judge. Therefore, allow me to leave the court. You said the defendant is innocent until proven guilty ... therefore, the defendant should be respected and be given full human rights, including the right to speak at court to defend himself."

Abdel-Rahman told Hussein he could leave, but if he did not, he would be thrown out.

The deposed leader eventually left the courtroom, along with two other defendants, leaving four defendants -- former Dujail Baath Party officials -- seated in the courtroom as the court proceeded on to witness testimony.

Hussein and seven co-defendants face charges for killing more than 140 Shiite males during a crackdown after an attempt on the former Iraqi leader's life in Dujail in 1982.

The first victim statement of the day came from a woman speaking from behind a curtain to conceal her identity. She said her family was detained and she and her husband were tortured following the failed assassination attempt in Dujail. Her husband, she said, was killed.

She named two defendants still in the courtroom as being involved -- Ali Dayem Ali and Mizhir Abdullah Kadhim Ruwayid. Both stood to deny the woman's accusations. "She has a vendetta against me," Ruwayid said.

The court-appointed defense lawyers did not choose to cross-examine her or the next two witnesses -- a departure from previous sessions.

The second witness, who also testified from behind the curtain, told a similar story.

The third witness named Hassan as "in charge of torture," defendant Taha Yassin Ramadan as "destroying our orchards," and defendant Awad Hamad al-Bandar as "sentencing [family members] to death." He also named Ali as the man who came to arrest his family. Al-Bandar and Ramadan had left the proceedings with Hussein.

Ali stood to deny the allegations. "I was a school teacher," he said. "I am not a criminal. I defended many people, and I helped many people."

Ruwayid also defended himself against that witness.

The former presiding judge, Rizgar Mohammed Amin, stepped down as criticism mounted over his handling of the court, including poor security for lawyers and a free hand in allowing Hussein and Hassan to launch diatribes against their conditions. (Full story)

'Political pressure'

Human Rights Watch has expressed concern over what it said was the Iraqi government's "interference with the independence of the judges in the trial."

"The demand for Presiding Judge Rizgar Amin's dismissal, which contributed to his resignation, was nothing less than an attack on judicial independence," Richard Dicker, director of the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch, was quoted as saying.

The group said that criticism of Amin's work and demands for his dismissal have come from pro-ruling party parliament members.

"Nevertheless, at other times the same government officials insisted that the tribunal was independent of political pressure," the report said.

The Iraq's De-Baathification Commission then successfully challenged the appointment of Judge Saeed al-Hammashi as Amin's successor, claiming that al-Hammashi "was ineligible to sit on the court due to his alleged former membership in the Baath Party."

Dicker was quoted as saying the removal of al-Hammashi "created the appearance of a court that is continually subjected to political interference."

Human Rights Watch is concerned over "unconfirmed reports" that al-Hammashi was transferred from the trial as part of a political compromise "between the De-Baathification Commission, the Prime Minister's Office and the Iraqi High Tribunal."

"The resignation of Judge Amin and the transfer of Judge al-Hammashi mean that two of the five judges who have heard the witness testimony are now off the case," Dicker is quoted as saying. "It will be difficult for the new judges to impartially evaluate the testimony they missed, damaging the integrity of the trial."

Like Amin, Abdel-Rahman is Kurdish. He is from Halabja, the site of the notorious gassing of Kurds during the notorious Anfal campaign in the 1980s. Hussein's involvement is to be dealt with by the war crimes tribunal.

Hussein lawyer threatens to sue

The Saddam Hussein defense team is preparing to sue U.S. President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair for violations of international law, including the invasion of Iraq, one of the attorneys told CNN on Sunday.

The lawyers will ask for compensation related to damages within Iraq after the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion, Kahamis al-Ubaidi said.

The suit will be filed within weeks at the International Court of Justice in the Hague, he said.

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