Trial proceeds without Hussein

Saddam Hussein's trial resumed Wednesday after a delay of several hours with the deposed Iraqi leader absent from the courtroom.

Chief Judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin opened the session at 7 a.m. ET, about four hours late, and called the first witness.

Hussein's chair sat empty at the front of the dock, and his chief lawyer thanked Amin for continuing the proceedings.

Amin said Hussein would be told about the proceedings taking place in his absence and that judges would meet with the defense team after Wednesday's session to discuss the lawyers' security situation.

On Tuesday, Hussein threatened not to return to court after five witnesses testified about brutalities they experienced during a government crackdown 23 years ago.

At the end of the nine-hour court session, Hussein complained that he and his seven co-defendants were tired and had been deprived of opportunities to shower, have a change of clothes, exercise or go for a smoke.

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

Wednesday morning, Hussein's lawyers conferred with the trial's judges and then the defendant, apparently in an effort to resolve the situation.

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.

After Wednesday's session convened, the court heard from a male witness who testified from behind a beige curtain to protect his identify. He was referred to as "Witness F."

The witness linked Hussein's half brother and co-defendant Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti to the crimes with which all the defendants are charged.

The witness said he was arrested after the assassination attempt and taken to Baath Party headquarters, where he found people "screaming because of the beatings." He said al-Tikriti was present.

Under questioning by the judge, however, the witness said he was blindfolded at the time and thought it was al-Tikriti speaking because other prisoners told him so.

Tuesday's 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 Hussein 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, CNN reports.


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