Monday, November 28, 2005

Hussein trial makes good TV

When the defendant stands up and yells at the judge, that's drama. Too bad no one can understand it since it's not in English. Subtitles just don't work in a case like this.

Nov. 28 (Bloomberg) -- Saddam Hussein argued with the judge in his murder and torture case minutes after proceedings resumed in Baghdad today. A video transmission of the trial was suspended during the outburst.

The deposed Iraqi dictator, 68, and seven former members of his Baath Party regime face the death penalty if convicted on charges of crimes against humanity. They deny all counts, including murder, forced expulsion, imprisonment, torture, and breaking international law, in connection with the 1982 killing of 148 in Dujail, a village just north of the capital. Today's session was followed by an adjournment until Dec. 5.

Hussein, wearing a white shirt and a dark suit with a handkerchief in the pocket, appeared as defiant today as he did when the trial opened Oct. 19. On the first day, he refused to recognize the legitimacy of a tribunal set up with U.S. guidance. Today, he denounced the presence of U.S. guards in the high- security courtroom.

"You are Iraqi, you have sovereignty," Hussein told Kurdish Judge Rizkar Mohammed Amin. "They are in your country, they are foreigners, they are invaders."

[...]Hussein then stood and complained that memorandums he had written to the court weren't passed on. Amin said he was granting an adjournment for Ramadan to find new counsel.

Hussein is the first leader of a Middle Eastern country to be brought to justice for abuses of human rights, and his trial is intended to open "a new chapter in the history of Iraq," according to President Jalal Talabani.

The court saw a brief video clip of Hussein in Dujail questioning people about a failed attempt on his life there that is alleged to have provoked the massacre. In the clip he told security forces to "separate and investigate."

The five-judge panel also saw the videotaped testimony of Waddah Ismail al-Sheikh, a former Baghdad prison warden who said Hussein's men took orders from Barzan al-Tikriti.

Amin read the official transcript as the video, taped in al- Sheikh's hospital room before he died, played without sound. According to the transcript, al-Sheikh, who appeared weak and sat in a wheelchair, said that about 400 people were detained after the assassination attempt on July 8, 1982. Amin called a recess after the video.

About 200 people gathered in the center of Dujail today, carrying portraits of murdered villagers, AFP reported.

"We are calling for the execution of the dictator Saddam," according to a banner described by AFP.

Why isn't this on Court TV? It's like Jerry Springer for lawyers; Law and Order come to life. But please people stop executing his lawyers or else this trial will never end...

UPDATE: More word games at the New York Times. The NYT titles this story Hussein, back in court, is combative and feisty. Well, you'd be feisty too if you were on trial for a zillion different charges. Hmm... perhaps falsely self-righteous might be a better word. How about egomaniacal? Ooh, ooh... I know disdainful!

NYT Editors: Can we please limit the word puzzles to the crosswords?