More Fireworks in Saddam Hussein Trial
12/05/2005 AT 08:00 AM EST
The deposed Iraqi despot's defense attorneys walked out of the courtroom after they disputed the legitimacy of the trial, and the judge denied foreign lawyers permission to speak.
"I just want two minutes," former U.S. attorney-general Ramsey Clark told Chief Judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin. When the defense team threatened to leave, the judge said the court would "have to appoint other lawyers."
After a 90-minute recess, Amin allowed Clark and ex-Qatari justice minister Najib al-Nueimi to address the issue of the tribunal's lawfulness and the safety of its lawyers, the Associated Press reports.
"Reconciliation is essential," Clark told the court. "This trial can divide or heal. Unless it is seen as absolutely fair, and fair in fact, it will divide rather than reconcile Iraq."
At that point the judge reminded Clark that he was to speak only about the security guarantees for the defense lawyers – two of whom have been assassinated since the trial began Oct. 19.
As Saddam's lawyers, led by Khalil al-Duleimi, headed out the door, the judge called after them: "My position is that it's in the interest of your clients to stay, so why are you leaving?"
The attorney replied that the court's refusal to hear the lawyers' request was "a violation of the rights of the defense," and insisted that the court examine its own legitimacy before proceeding with the trial, reports CNN.
Saddam, 68, and seven former aides stand charged of murdering 148 people in the village of Dujail, following an assassination attempt on Hussein there in 1982. They have pleaded not guilty.