Saddam trial descends into chaos

Saddam Hussein returned to court on Monday and immediately launched into tirades, pounding the railing of his metal pen, condemning the court and saying he had been forced to attend the trial, a Reuters witness said.

The toppled Iraqi leader refused an offer of court-appointed lawyers to replace his defense team, which walked out of the court last month to protest against the tough new chief judge.

Saddam and his co-accused are charged with killing 148 men from the Shi'ite town of Dujail in reprisal for a bid to assassinate Saddam there in 1982.

Saddam appeared with his seven co-accused, but he and his half-brother Barzan al-Tikriti immediately went into attack mode against a court they say lacks authority because it was created under U.S. occupation.

"This is not a court, this is a game," said Saddam, who still calls himself the president of Iraq, a country he ruled with an iron fist for three decades.

Saddam and Barzan stood up and challenged chief judge Raouf Abdel Rahman, who Iraqi officials hope will take control of the trial and hand down a quick sentence, which will be hanging if the ousted president is found guilty of crimes against humanity, reports Reuters.

I.L.