Saddam Hussein expected to show up when his trial reconvenes

Saddam Hussein was expected to show up when his trial reconvenes Wednesday two weeks after he boycotted the last session and vowed not to appear before an "unjust" court, the chief prosecutor and defense lawyers said Tuesday. It will be Saddam's first court appearance after Iraqis swarmed to the polls on Dec. 15 to elect the country's first full-term parliament since his downfall.

"Saddam and his defense team will be there," chief prosecutor Jaafar al-Mousawi told The Associated Press by telephone. Two of Saddam's lawyers also said the former president was expected to appear in court on Wednesday.

Five prosecution witnesses are ready to take the stand on Wednesday, al-Mousawi said, but it would be up to the court to decided whether to hear all of them. It was unclear how many more prosecution witnesses, if any, would follow.

"We are very prepared for the resumption of the trial," al-Mousawi said. "There is evidence and there are documents with Saddam's signature on them," he told the AP. "When it's time for the prosecution to make its case, there will be a surprise." He did not elaborate or provide any further details.

A witness who has already testified before the court, Ahmed Hussein, told AP Television News that he has documents showing that Saddam was involved with the killings in Dujail. "So many names, members of the former regime were mentioned in these documents," he said.

Saddam and seven co-defendants are on trial in the deaths of more than 140 Shiite Muslims following a 1982 assassination attempt against him in the town of Dujail, north of Baghdad. Saddam refused to attend the last session, held on Dec. 7. One day before, Saddam in an outburst had shouted: "I will not come to an unjust court! Go to hell!"

Ziad al-Najdawi, one of Saddam's Jordan-based defense lawyers, said the former president would be in court on Wednesday "unless an obstacle emerges."

"The Iraqi President Saddam Hussein will appear in court as usual, proud and vigorous," he told the AP.

Al-Najdawi said an American lawyer, Curtis Doebbler, was also expected to attend Wednesday's hearing on behalf of former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark. Doebbler was already in Baghdad, he said. During previous sessions, Saddam has been defiant and combative at times, often trying to dominate the courtroom.

He and his half brother, Barazan Ibrahim, who was head of the Iraqi intelligence during the Dujail incident, have used the procedures to protest their own conditions in detention.

The court has so far heard nine witnesses, who often gave emotional testimonies of random arrests, hunger and beatings while in custody and torture in detention. Khamis al-Ubeidi, another lawyer on Saddam's defense team, argued that the "witnesses have no legal value. Their testimonies are based on coaching and unjustified narrative."

He said the defense team had security concerns that it wanted to tell the court about. "The court has to provide the lawyers and the defense witnesses with security," he told The AP on Tuesday. "How can a lawyer work if he cannot move freely because of the security situation?"

He claimed that upon their arrival at Baghdad's airport on Tuesday, two of Saddam's lawyers, including Khalil al-Dulaimi, were insulted and beaten up by "airport employees,” reports the AP. I.L.