Baghdad, Dec. 22 (Reuters): Saddam Hussein denounced US leaders as liars at a turbulent court hearing today and his once-feared intelligence chief abused prosecutors before threatening to boycott the rest of the trial.
Iraq’s former leader, facing possible hanging if convicted, said the White House had lied to justify its 2003 invasion by saying he had chemical weapons, and had lied again yesterday denying his claim that he was tortured in US custody.
He reiterated the torture allegation and accused US soldiers of stealing his watch.
Three witnesses testified about abuse they said they and other detainees faced in Saddam’s jails. Speaking from behind a curtain to conceal their identities, they gave long and sometimes chilling accounts of beatings and deprivation.
Saddam looked more concerned with his own plight.
“The White House are liars,” he told the court, where he and seven others, including his half-brother and former intelligence chief Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, stand accused of crimes against humanity. “They said Iraq had chemical weapons.”
Iraq developed chemical weapons in the 1980s and used them against Iran and Iraqi Kurds. It is now thought to have destroyed its remaining stocks after the 1991 Gulf War.
Saddam said he had marks on his body to prove he had been tortured in the US, but he did not show them.
The White House has already dismissed his torture claim as “preposterous” and was backed up today by Raed Jouhi, the Iraqi magistrate who brought the case against Saddam to court. “We didn’t receive a single complaint of abuse from the defendants even when we asked them about their treatment,” he said. “They have a constant power supply, hygiene and good food.”
Saddam gave his latest broadside early in the hearing, the seventh in a stop-start trial which began on October 19. The court today adjourned the trial till January 24.
For most of the session, the man who ruled Iraq for 24 years sat quietly in his black leather chair, while Barzan took centre stage, accusing prosecutors of being former Baath party members.
“This is the biggest insult in my life, to be associated with this blood-stained party,” said a prosecutor, who was refused to be relieved of his duties because of personal insults from the dock.
Barzan complained about the way the trial was being televised. It is being aired with a 30-minute delay to allow court officials to censor images and sound, which they have sometimes done when Saddam or Barzan have spoken.
“If the sound is cut off once again, then I don’t know about my comrades but I personally won’t attend again,” Barzan said. “This is unjust and undemocratic.”