Excerpts from Hussein's arguments with judge

The following are excerpts from the arguments between Saddam Hussein and chief judge Raouf Abdel-Rahman during his trial Wednesday.

Saddam was called into the court to give his testimony and be questioned on charges of killing, imprisoning and torturing Shiites during a crackdown in the 1980s. But instead, he read a written speech.

The excerpts have been translated from Arabic by The Associated Press.

Saddam (reading his speech): What pains me most is what I heard recently about something that aims to harm our people. My conscience tells me that the great people of Iraq have nothing to do with these strange and horrid acts, the bombing of the shrine of Imam Ali al-Hadi and Hassan al-Askari ... which led to the burning of mosques in Baghdad , which are the houses of God, and the burning of other mosques in other cities of Iraq ...

Abdel-Rahman: Listen, what does this speech have to do with our case? We asked you to give your testimony on the subject of Dujail and your role as the head of state of the time.

Saddam: I am the head of state.

Abdel-Rahman: You used to be the head of state. Now you are a defendant in a court. ... You stand before a court, not on a political platform.

Saddam: I stand before the Iraqi people.

Abdel-Rahman: As a judge, I don't deal with you on political issues. I'm asking you legally. You gave testimony before the investigating judges about your role in the Dujail issue. You have to explain that case.

Saddam (resumes reading): The bloodshed that they (the Americans) have caused to the Iraqi people only made them more intent and strong to evict the foreigners from their land and liberate their country. ... Let the people resist the invaders and their supporters rather than kill each other. ... Oh Iraqis, men and women, ... those who blew up the shrine are shameful criminals

Abdel-Rahman (shouting): You have to address the subject of this case. Give your testimony.

Saddam (reading): Oh Iraqis, in your resistance to the invasion by the Americans and Zionists and their allies, you were great. You were great in my eyes and you remain so.

Abdel-Rahman: Listen, you're accused in a criminal case. Defend yourself. The time for this over. ... No more political speeches. We are a criminal court, a judicial court, we don't have anything to do with political issues or anything like this. Testify.

Saddam: Political issues are what brought you and me here. (Continues reading. Sound cuts in and out as Abdel-Rahman shuts off his microphone) ... But now, the criminals who came on the excuse of weapons of mass destruction, with their tanks to rule the Iraqi people under the slogan of democracy

Abdel-Rahman (interrupting): You are before a court. This is your own personal issue between you and the Americans ... You are before an Iraqi court about an Iraqi issue, concerning the killing of innocent people. Answer that charge. Your conflict with the Americans has no bearing on this case.

(Prosecutor tries to address Saddam, sparking a new shouting match that other defense lawyers join. Abdel-Rahman banging gavel silences them.)

Saddam: This is a court?

Abdel-Rahman (shouting): Yes, a court! ... Respect yourself.

Saddam: You respect yourself.

Abdel-Rahman: I respect myself. I am a judge

Saddam: Who shows respect gets respect.

Abdel-Rahman: What is this style of yours? You are a defendant in a major criminal case, concerning the killing of innocents. You have to respond to this charge.

Saddam: What about those who are dying in Baghdad ? Are they not innocents? Are they not Iraqis? ... I am addressing the Iraqi people. (Resumes reading but sound goes out.)

Abdel-Rahman: The court has decided to turn this into a secret and closed session, reports the AP.

D.M.

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