After a short session during which the first testimony was read into the record, Chief Judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin adjourned the trial until Dec. 5 to allow time to find replacements for two defense lawyers who were slain and another who fled the country after he was wounded.
Six defense attorneys failed to show up, and while the court appointed some replacements, security is obviously a major concern, reports CBS News correspondent Cami McCormick.
Saddam and seven co-defendants are charged in the murder of more than 140 Shiite Muslim men and boys after an assassination attempt against the former president in the Shiite town of Dujail in 1982, reports
Earlier Monday, Judge Amin ordered all handcuffs and shackles removed from Saddam and the seven co-defendants before they entered the court.
In other developments:
Dressed in black trousers and a gray jacket, Saddam was the last of the eight to enter.
"He had that real Saddam attitude from the moment he stepped into that room, and he smiled at his codefendants, he smiled at the judge as he walked past," said Logan.
Once inside, Saddam had a brief but heated exchange with the chief judge, complaining that he had to walk up four flights of stairs in shackles and carrying a copy of the Muslim holy book Quran because the elevator wasn't working.
The judge said he would tell the police not to let that happen again. Saddam snapped: "You are the chief judge. I don't want you to tell them. I want you to order them. They are in our country. You have the sovereignty. You are Iraqi and they are foreigners and occupiers. They are invaders. You should order them."
Saddam complained that he was escorted up the stairs by "foreign guards" and that some of his papers had been taken.
"How can a defendant defend himself if his pen was taken. Saddam Hussein's pen and papers were taken. I don't mean a white paper. There are papers downstairs that include my remarks in which I express my opinion," he said.
After the judge announced the adjournment, defense lawyers protested that they needed more time and suggested 30 days. The judge suspended the proceedings for about 10 minutes and then announced that the Dec. 5 date stands.
"Trials shouldn't proceed anywhere, in America or Iraq, unless the defense attorneys have access to the information and documents to which they are entitled and are legitimately ready for trial," says CBSNews.com Legal Analyst Andrew Cohen. "That hasn't apparently happened here, for a variety of reasons, so we shouldn't be terribly surprised that things are off to such a slow start."
Saddam then complained that he had written three or four memos to the judge since the Oct. 19 session but received no response. The judge said he was unaware of the memos.
"Some of the people that our teams have spoken to have expressed frustration. They thought this would take a lot less time," reports CBS News correspondent Kimberly Dozier. "Now it looks as if this could stretch on well into next year. And one of the top Iraqi officials we spoke to said even if Saddam Hussein is found guilty this time around and sentenced to death, it could take several months of procedural delays before anyone sees justice served."
A moment of silence was observed in memory of two defense lawyers assassinated since the trial's opening, and defense attorneys were on hand for the session, despite threats to boycott the hearing to protest the government's alleged failure to protect them.
Afterward, the court played the videotaped testimony of former intelligence officer Wadah Ismael al-Sheik, who investigated the assassination attempt and who died of cancer soon after making the statement in a U.S.-controlled hospital last month.
Judge Amin read the official transcript as the tape played without sound. According to the transcript, al-Sheik, who appeared weak, frail and sat in a wheelchair, said about 400 people were detained after the assassination attempt, although he estimated only between seven and 12 gunmen took an active part in the ambush of Saddam's convoy.
"I don't know why so many people were arrested," al-Sheik said, adding that co-defendant Barzan Ibrahim, Saddam's half brother and head of Iraqi intelligence at the time, "was the one directly giving the orders."
A day after the attempt, entire families were rounded up and taken to Abu Ghraib prison, he said. A year later they were moved to another detention center in southern Iraq.
Al-Sheik said he never spoke to Saddam about the affair and received no orders to torture the prisoners. But he noted that Saddam decorated intelligence officers who took part in the followup operations.
He also said co-defendant Taha Yassin Ramadan, a former vice president, headed a committee that ordered orchards in the area — the base of the town's livelihood — to be destroyed. The orchards had been used to conceal the assailants, he said.