Secret Witness Testifies

Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein gestures as he addresses Presiding Judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin during his trial held under tight security in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone, Tuesday Dec. 6, 2005. AP

As his trial moves forward, Saddam Hussein appears to be aiming his remarks more at the world stage and less at the court, who he says has no right to judge him. The former Iraqi dictator also says he's not afraid of death.

A woman whose identity will be kept secret was the first witness in the trial of Saddam as the fourth session of the trial resumed Tuesday in Baghdad's heavily guarded Green Zone.

Chief Judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin told the court that defense attorneys will be told the identity of the witness but they must not pass them to anyone outside the tribunal. He said she would be referred to publicly as "Witness A."

Witnesses have the option of not having their identities revealed as a security measure to protect them against reprisals by Saddam loyalists. The first two witnesses — both males who took the stand Monday — allowed their names to be announced and their pictures to be transmitted around the world.

When the witness began to speak, defense attorneys complained they could not hear her because her voice was being distorted to protect her identity. The judge then ordered the voice modulator to be shut off — allowing defense counsel to hear her natural voice.

People in the visitors' gallery and the press viewing area could not hear any of her testimony.

In other recent developments:

  • Two women strapped with explosives blew themselves up in a classroom filled with students at Baghdad's police academy on Tuesday, killing 27 people and wounding 32, the U.S. military said.

  • Former Iraqi Prime Minister Muhammad Hamza al-Zubaydi, one of the top Saddam Hussein-era leaders captured in Iraq, has died at a U.S. military hospital in Baghdad, the American military said Monday. He was 67.

  • Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Monday the American public should be optimistic about the situation in Iraq, and not judge progress based on the death toll or media reports alone.

    Hear an excerpt of Rumsfeld's comments

  • Unidentified gunmen abducted a French engineer from outside his home as he was on his way to work Monday in Baghdad. The kidnappers in three cars surrounded the man as he was getting into a car outside a house in the wealthy Mansour district of Baghdad, police Capt. Qassim Hussein said.

  • U.S. troops and Iraqi troops began an operation Monday in Ramadi, 70 miles west of Baghdad, to help "neutralize the insurgency" before the Dec. 15 parliamentary election, a U.S. military said.

    Before the woman's testimony, Saddam's half brother and co-defendant Barazan Ibrahim and chief prosecutor Jaafar al-Mousawi got into a verbal tiff over the defendant referring to him as "comrade," in the style of Saddam's Baath Party.

    "I object to being referred to as a comrade," the prosecutor complained.

    Ibrahim replied: "The word 'comrade' is very noble and dignified. You are my comrade and I'm very proud of you."

    Monday, Saddam told the chief judge at his trial that "I am not afraid of execution" and seemed to threaten the judge during an unruly court session in which the first witness took the stand and testified that the former president's agents carried out random arrests, torture and killings.

    The outburst was one of several by Saddam or his co-defendants at the trial that also saw a brief walkout by his defense lawyers.

    At one point, Saddam appeared to threaten the judge, saying: "When the revolution of the heroic Iraq arrives, you will be held accountable."

    Chief Judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin replied: "This is an insult to the court. We are searching for the truth."

    Before the trial adjourned until Tuesday, Saddam repeatedly interrupted testimony and appeared to try to rally Iraqis against the U.S. occupation.

    Saddam also suggested that the first witness against him needed psychiatric treatment, then, after that witness finished testifying, he defended his actions and told the court that he understood the pressures upon it in his trial. He and his seven co-defendants could be executed if convicted in the deaths of more than 140 Shiites in 1982.

    • Joel Roberts

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