The trial of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and seven other co-defendants has been adjourned until next Monday to give the defense time to replace two attorneys, who were recently murdered.
Chief Judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin ordered the one-week postponement after one of the defendants, former vice president Taha Yassin Ramadan, refused to recognize his court-appointed lawyer and demanded that he be given the opportunity to choose his own attorney.
Defense attorneys then sought to have the trial postponed for 30 days, but Judge Amin rejected their request. The latest hearings had been expected to last until Thursday.
The lawyer for former vice president Ramadan was killed on November 8 by unknown assailants. Three weeks earlier, the body of defense lawyer Sadoun al-Janabi was found, one day after he had represented Awad al-Bandar, a former Baath Party official, at the trial's opening session. Another defense lawyer subsequently fled the country after receiving death threats.
The remaining men on the defense team had threatened to boycott Monday's session, saying they feared for their safety. They agreed to attend after receiving more security guarantees and a promise by the United States to help investigate the murder of their colleagues.
Saddam was as combative at the start of Monday's two-hour court session as he was during his first court appearance last month. This time, he complained bitterly about his treatment at the hands of his American guards.
Saddam said that the elevator was broken and he was forced to walk up four flights of stairs in handcuffs, making it difficult for him to carry a copy of the Koran. Saddam then told Chief Judge Amin that American guards had taken his pen and notes away, making it impossible for him to properly defend himself in court.
When the judge said that he would ask the Americans to return the items, Saddam snapped at Judge Amin.
"Please, judge," Saddam Hussein said. "I don't want you to tell them. Order them! You are an Iraqi. They are in your country. They are foreigners and invaders."
More than an hour into the session, Judge Amin read sworn testimony from Wadah Ismail al-Sheikh, a former intelligence official who investigated an assassination attempt of Saddam Hussein in the town of Dujail, north of Baghdad, in 1982.
Shortly after giving his statement late last month, Mr. Sheikh died of cancer. He was seen in court Monday in a videotape, appearing frail and weak, seated in a wheelchair. The videotape was played without any sound.
Saddam is accused of ordering the deaths of 148 Shi'ite Muslims in Dujail, after a failed assassination attempt there 23 years ago. The Dujail case is the first of as many as a dozen high-profile cases that prosecutors plan to bring to trial against Saddam and his inner circle for atrocities they allegedly committed during their decades-long rule.
On Monday, former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark was formally sworn in as a member of Saddam's defense team. The American civil rights lawyer, who arrived in Baghdad Sunday with a former justice minister from Qatar, said that he wants to make sure that Saddam's legal rights are upheld in the proceedings.
If convicted, Saddam and the seven co-defendants could be executed by hanging.