Saddam trial resumes without any of eight defendants

Saddam Hussein's trial resumed Thursday without any of the eight defendants in the courtroom. The former Iraqi leader and four other defendants boycotted, and the chief judge said he barred the remainder for "disorderly behavior."

Judge Raouf Abdel-Rahman announced at the start of the session, which started more than 90 minutes late, that the three defendants had caused "chaos" outside the courtroom. He did not elaborate. With the eight defendant chairs empty in a pen in front of the bench, Abdel-Rahman ordered the proceedings to continue and the court began hearing the day's first witness.

Abdel-Raouf has shown his determination to push ahead even amid a boycott by defendants and their entire defense team. But their absence has raised worries over the credibility of a landmark trial that U.S. and Iraqi officials hoped would help Iraqis move beyond the sharp divisions left by the Saddam era.

The boycott began in a stormy session Sunday, Abdel-Rahman's first presiding over the trial, when the chief judge threw out defendant Barzan Ibrahim and a defense lawyer for causing a disturbance. The entire defense team then walked out in protest.

Saddam and two other defendants then refused to work with their court-appointed defense lawyers and were escorted out of the court. Another defendant later joined them in rejecting the new attorneys. The defense team said before a session Wednesday that they will boycott the trial until Abdel-Rahman is removed, alleging he is biased against Saddam. The former Iraqi leader and the four other defendants have refused to attend the trial until their original lawyers are restored, reports the AP. I.L.