BAGHDAD A defiant Saddam Hussein pleaded innocent to charges of murder and torture as his long-awaited trial began today with the one-time dictator arguing about the legitimacy of the court and scuffling with guards.
The first session of the trial lasted about three hours, and the judge ordered an adjournment until Nov. 28.
Saddam and his seven co-defendants could face the death penalty if convicted for the 1982 massacre of nearly 150 Shiites in the town of Dujail. They are being tried in the former headquarters of Saddam s Baath Party.
After presiding judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin, a Kurd, 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 68-year-old ousted dictator, saying Mr. Saddam, go ahead. Are you guilty or innocent?
Saddam holding a copy of the Quran he brought with him into the session and held throughout replied quietly, I said what I said. I am not guilty, referring to his arguments earlier in the session.
Amin read out the plea, Innocent.
The confrontation then became physical. When a break was called, Saddam stood, smiling, and asked to step out of the room. When two guards tried to grab his arms to escort him out, he angrily shook them off.
They tried to grab him again, and Saddam struggled to free himself. Saddam and the guards shoved each other and yelled for about a minute.
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.
Many Iraqis and others across the Middle East were glued to their television sets to watch the first-ever criminal trial of an Arab leader.
The proceedings were aired with about a 20-minute delay on state-run Iraqi television and on satellite stations across Iraq and the Arab world. But technical quality was poor, with the sound cutting out frequently and the picture going blank several times.
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CAIRO, Egypt Iraqi police arrested a nephew of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad today, charging that he served as a top financier of Iraq s insurgency, senior Iraqi security officials said.
Yasir Sabhawi Ibrahim, son of Saddam s half brother Sabhawi Ibrahim Hasan al-Tikriti, was arrested in a Baghdad apartment, several days after Syrian authorities forced him to return to Iraq, the officials told The Associated Press in Cairo in a telephone interview.
They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were unauthorized to deal with the media.