Saddam: 'I am still president of Iraq'

A defiant Saddam Hussein, proclaiming he was still “president” of Iraq, on Wednesday refused to give even his name as he appeared in court on the first day of a trial being watched across the globe.

Saddam, carrying an old copy of the Qur’an and in seemingly robust shape, appeared in a combative mood as he delivered a widely predicted but feisty tirade against the judge and the legitimacy of the court.

He and seven of his former cohorts are on trial for crimes against humanity over a 1982 Shi’ite massacre.

After entering the courtroom, Saddam—who was not handcuffed and wore a grey suit and open-necked shirt—sat in the front pen along with one other defendant. The remaining defendants were spread among the other two pens.

Chief Judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin then asked Saddam to state his name, profession and tribal name. He refused to give his name or answer any other questions.
Television images were subject to a 30-minute time delay.

“For the record, the witness refuses to give his name,” said the judge.

Saddam—still instantly recognisable with his trademark beard now flecked with grey—had no qualms about engaging in a protracted and increasingly heated exchange with the Kurdish judge.

The silver-haired Amin, wearing a striped tie and black gown, countered: “I want for the moment that you give your identity, your name, your first name, and then we will listen to you. You will have your day, we will give you a chance to speak.

“We do not have the time to hear your opinions. Just relax and say who you are,” he said.

Saddam went on to say: “I say I don’t answer this so-called court, with all due respect. And I reserve my constitutional right as the president of the country of Iraq, I will not go along.

“I don’t acknowledge either the entity that authorises you nor the aggression, because everything based on falsehood is falsehood,” Saddam said.

“I am the president of Iraq. I am still opinion that this court is illegitimate. This court is false and whatever is built on a false premise is false.”

The former Iraqi leader also said he was appalled at being unable to bring writing materials into the courtroom.

“This is a formality of the court,” reaffirmed an increasingly exasperated-looking Amin.

“You can sit down so that we can begin,” he told the former leader.

Saddam also refused to hand over his identity card for examination.

“Mr Saddam, we need the ID card, these are formalities,” insisted the judge.

Three of the eight defendants were wearing tribal headdress. The proceedings were briefly held up when some claimed they were not allowed to wear the dress, but they reappeared later wearing the full attire.

Another problem encountered by the Iraqi special tribunal on its first morning was trouble with the sound system, which enforced a 10-minute stoppage early on.—Sapa-AFP

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