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THE TRIAL OF SADDAM HUSSEIN

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By Michelle Malkin  •  October 19, 2005 08:31 AM

The trial has begun. A “combative” and “defiant” Saddam Hussein pleaded not guilty to charges of crime against humanity. Via AP:

Saddam Hussein pleaded innocent to charges of premeditated murder and torture Wednesday, arguing with judges and challenging the legitimacy of the court as his trial opened under heavy security in the former headquarters of his Baath Party.

Saddam and seven former members of his regime could face the death penalty if convicted over the 1982 massacre of nearly 150 Shiites in the town of Dujail.

After presiding judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin read the defendants their rights and the charges against them – which also include forced expulsions and illegal imprisonment – he asked each for their plea. He started with the ousted dictator, saying “Mr. Saddam, go ahead. Are you guilty or innocent?”

Saddam could be seen saying something too quietly to be heard, and Amin read out the plea: “Innocent.”

Earlier, at the opening of the trial, the 68-year-old ousted Iraqi leader – looking thin with a salt-and-pepper beard in a dark gray suit and open-collared white shirt – stood and asked the presiding judge: “Who are you? I want to know who you are.”

“I do not respond to this so-called court, with all due respect to its people, and I retain my constitutional right as the president of Iraq,” he said, brushing off the judge’s attempts to interrupt him. “Neither do I recognize the body that has designated and authorized you, nor the aggression because all that has been built on false basis is false.”

A shoving match ensued:

When a break was called, Saddam stood, smiling, asked to step of the room, but when two guards tried to grab him arms to escort him out, he angrily shook them off. They tried to grab him again, and Saddam struggled to get free, being shaken during a shoving match that lasted about a minute as they yelled at each other.

It ended with Saddam getting his way, and he was allowed to walk independently, with the two guards behind him, out of the room for the break.

The proceedings have been adjourned until Nov. 28 at Hussein’s request.

Meanwhile, human rights agitators, led by Ramsey Clark, continue to shed tears for the helpless Saddam:

Saddam Hussein’s rights have been “violated” in the legal process following his capture, one of his top United States lawyers said on Tuesday on the eve of the deposed Iraqi leader’s trial opening on charges of ordering the massacre of 143 countrymen two decades ago.

Ex-US attorney-general Ramsey Clark also cited reports by international human rights groups, like the US-based Human Rights Watch and the Britain-based Amnesty International, which questioned if Saddam will receive a fair trial.

“Among the fundamental human rights that have been violated for almost two years are right to equality of arms, to a lawyer of his own choosing, access to facilities to prepare his defence, and access to a proper constituted court to challenge,” according to a written statement issued by Clark, one of nearly a dozen international lawyers on Saddam’s defence team.

It’s almost impossible to spoof Saddam’s apologists, but James Robbins does it well at NRO.

Read CNN’s Christiane Amanpour’s sympathetic reporting on Saddam and his co-defendants here.

Newsbusters’ Brent Baker has a good rundown of Saddam-friendly coverage from the networks.

Matt Margolis calls Saddam “the Left’s new Mumia.”

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The antics of Saddam and his minions inside and outside the courtroom should not distract attention from the victims of the bloody 1982 massacre. Here’s a good backgrounder on Dujail from the NYTimes and here at the SFChronicle.

And more from the Boston Globe:

‘We want to eat him alive,” said Salimah Majeed Al-Haidari, 60, who spent more than four years in detention, then waited 17 more to learn that her husband and two sons, hauled off by security officers, had been executed. ”We wish they would cut him to pieces and hand them out to us and families like us.”

A photo memorial of the dead.

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