Saddam Hussein’s trial resumes - 1 March, 2006

Saddam Hussein and his co-defendants quietly entered the courtroom Wednesday for the latest session of their trial, a day after prosecutors presented their most direct evidence yet pinning the formerIraqi leader to executions of Shiites in the 1980s.

For the second straight day, the session had a quiet start, a sharp contrast to the outbursts, insults and arguments that characterized past proceedings.

The trial, which began Oct. 19, appears to have entered a new phase, after chief judge Raouf Abdel-Rahman imposed control on the stormy tribunal and prosecutors began presenting the core of their case: documents they say prove Saddam and his co-defendants led a campaign of arrests, torture and executions in which 148 Shiites died following a 1982 attempt to assassinate Saddam in the town of Dujail.

Prosecutors planned on Wednesday to bring several former regime officials to the witness stand.

Saddam's defense team attended the trial, as they did in Tuesday's session, after ending a boycott that had aimed to remove Abdel-Rahman, who they claimed was biased against the former Iraqi leader. Abdel-Rahman rejected the demand in Tuesday's sessions, though the defense said it would appeal.

The turn in the case, including the defense team's participation and the order in the room, boosted hopes the controversial trial will be seen as credible in a country still sharply divided by Saddam's legacy.

But those splits have only gotten wider amid a surge of bloody sectarian violence between Iraq's Sunnis and Shiites. At least 68 people were killed Tuesday in bombings and mortar barrages, mainly against religious targets, in continued violence sparked by an attack last wek on a major Shiite shrine.

In court on Tuesday, chief prosecutor Jaafar al-Moussawi presented on an overhead screen a series of documents, presidential orders, court rulings and internal memos of the Mukhabarat intelligence agency, some handwritten, some with the letterhead of the agency, detailing executions following the Dujail crackdown, reports the AP.


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