| Witness Ahmed Hassan testifies as former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein watches in the Baghdad courtroom on Monday. (AFP)
Baghdad, Dec. 5 (Reuters): Saddam Hussein said he was not afraid to die and aggressively took on the court trying him today, bullying a witness who described the horrors of his rule, including a meat grinder for human flesh.
In a defiant display, Saddam interrupted the judge, ridiculed the prosecutor and at times smirked with derision as he dismissed evidence against him with angry gestures.
“You can’t go on playing these games,” said Iraq’s former dictator, who had repeatedly interrupted witnesses and the judge. “If you want my neck you can have it.” At one point Saddam yelled at one of two witnesses who testified: “Don’t interrupt me, boy.”
The chief judge eventually called a halt to proceedings. A court official said the trial would resume tomorrow.
It ended a highly charged session in which two men became the first witnesses to face the deposed dictator in court. Ahmed Hassan, 38, recounted how he and his family were seized and tortured after a 1982 attempt on the ousted leader’s life in the Shia town of Dujail.
Hassan, who risked reprisals by letting his face appear on television as he gave evidence, said they were taken to an intelligence building in Baghdad run by Barzan Ibrahim al- Tikriti, Saddam’s half-brother and former intelligence chief.
Barzan, one of eight men charged with crimes against humanity, yelled at Hassan: “He should act in the cinema.”
Saddam and his co-defendants are charged with killing 148 men from Dujail after the assassination attempt.
Hassan’s testimony brought the charges chillingly to life after chaotic procedural wrangling during which former US attorney-general Ramsey Clark led a defence walkout over threats to the lawyers and a challenge to the legitimacy of the court.
“I swear by God, I walked by a room and ... saw a grinder with blood coming out of it and human hair underneath,” Hassan told the court. During the testimony, Barzan, sitting behind Saddam in the dock, interrupted Hassan, shouting: “It’s a lie!” Hassan said: “My brother was given electric shocks while my 77-year-old father watched ... One man was shot in the leg ... Some were crippled because they had arms and legs broken.”
Other trials over the oppression of Shias and Kurds by Saddam, who is from Iraq’s Sunni minority, are expected to follow.In his testimony, Hassan described seeing Barzan in Dujail on the day of the attack in July 1982, wearing red cowboy boots and blue jeans, and carrying a sniper rifle. He said Saddam was there as well, and related an episode involving a boy of 15.
“Saddam said to him: ‘Do you know who I am'’” Hassan said, adding that when the boy answered: “Saddam”, the president picked up an ashtray and hit him across the head.
As he listened to the testimony, Saddam sometimes chuckled. Later, his chief lawyer, Khalil Dulaimi, argued with the witness and accused him of lying.
As the bespectacled Shia prosecutor was asking questions, Saddam’s temper flared. “Hey, you in the glasses, don’t you recognise your leader of 30 years'” he shouted.
Hassan’s testimony followed a near-farcical few hours when Saddam’s defence team first stormed out of the court and then returned later to challenge its legitimacy.