Saddam Hussein's trial for genocide against the Kurds resumed Monday, a day after the chief defense lawyer warned of worsening violence in Iraq if the ex-president is sentenced to death in a separate trial for a crackdown on a Shiite Muslim village in the 1980s.
The chief lawyer, Khalil al-Dulaimi, attended Monday's session, ending a monthlong boycott of the Kurdish genocide trial. The trial resumed after a 10-day break to mark Eid el-Fitr, the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
A verdict in Saddam's first trial is expected Nov. 5. He and seven others are charged with crimes against humanity in connection with the killing of 148 Shiites from Dujail after an attempt to assassinate him in the town in 1982. If convicted, he can be hanged, but is likely to appeal to a higher court.
In Monday's session, Saddam and six co-defendants sat in court facing charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in connection with a military offensive on Iraq's Kurdish population in 1987-88. The prosecution alleges about 180,000 people died in the campaign, codenamed Operation Anfal. Saddam and another defendant are also charged with genocide.
Chief defense lawyer al-Dulaimi said Sunday that he had written to U.S. President George W. Bush, warning of a civil war in Iraq and unrest throughout the region if Saddam is executed.
"I warned him against the death penalty and against any other decision that would inflame a civil war in Iraq and send fire throughout the region," al-Dulaimi said in a telephone interview from Baghdad. He did not say when he sent the letter to Bush.
"Any foolish American decision will further complicate things and will pose a serious threat to U.S. interests in the region," he added.
Al-Dulaimi said Sunday that he would end his boycott to file requests to the judge, including permission for foreign lawyers to attend the hearings without prior leave from the court, reports AP.
"Depending on the response from the chief judge, the defense team will decide whether to attend the hearings or continue its boycott," he said.
The defense team had boycotted the trial since Sept. 24 after the dismissal of the chief judge, who had been criticized as being too soft on Saddam. The lawyers said later they also were protesting the court's refusal to give them more time to review some 10,000 documents in the Anfal trial.