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In Testimony, Hussein Blasts Court With an Angry Denial of Any Guilt

By John F. Burns


Saddam Hussein returned to court on Monday and quickly seized the floor for a verbal assault on the American military guards who he said had manhandled him on his way to the courtroom, demanding that the chief judge in the trial reprove them.

“I want you to order them, not tell them,” Saddam thundered, after the judge, Rizgar Mohammed Amin, said he would tell the Americans of the complaints. “I don’t want you to tell them. Order them! They are in our country. You are an Iraqi. They are foreigners, and occupiers and invaders, so you must condemn them. Otherwise, you are a small boat rocking in the waves.”

Amin, impatient, replied, “You are wasting our time,” prompting a further riposte from Saddam: “Wasting time with things that are true, not things that are false.”

At other times, the former dictator seemed acquiescent, sitting ruminatively in the first row of the dock, taking copious notes, engaging in easy banter with fellow defendants and courtroom guards and even writing a poem that he voiced aloud during one of the recesses, apparently unaware that the microphone near him was still live.

The poem, later seized by guards after Saddam had passed it to one of his defense lawyers, reflected Saddam’s insistence that he is innocent of all wrongdoing during his 24 years in power, not only of the killing of 2 million people as the prosecution has charged, but of any culpability in killings in the Shiite town of Dujail for which he is being tried in this case. Roughly translated from Arabic, the poem contended that “truth is our characteristic” and that “lying is theirs.”

As the trial got under way, a former secret police officer testified that he had not received any orders from Saddam during the investigations that followed an assassination attempt against him in Dujail in 1982.