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Saddam Trial Delayed

In this general view the interior of the courtroom where the trial of Saddam Hussein and seven co-defendants is being held, is seen at an undisclosed location in the heavily fortified Green Zone, January 24, 2006 in Baghdad, Iraq.
Getty Images/David Furst
The court trying Saddam Hussein cancelled the resumption of his trial Tuesday, delaying the session for five days, after some judges opposed the appointment of a new chief judge in a last-minute shakeup.

The delay and judges' dispute were the latest sign of disarray in the trial of the ousted Iraqi leader and his former regime officials, calling into question the fairness of what is meant to be a landmark step in Iraq's political progress.

The trial has already been marred by delays, assassinations and chaotic courtroom outbursts by Saddam.

The latest postponement came a day after a new chief judge was appointed following the resignation of his predecessor and another member of the five-judge panel was ousted.

After hours of waiting for Tuesday's court session to begin, court official Raid Juhi told journalists that the court had decided to postpone the hearing until Sunday.

CBS News correspondent Susan Roberts reports he said the delay was because "some of the witnesses who were due to appear today have been unable to attend because some of them were performing the pilgrimage" to Saudi Arabia, which ended more than a week ago. Juhi refused to take any questions.

But two judges said the members of the panel hearing the case were arguing over the appointment of the new chief judge, Raouf Rasheed Abdel-Rahman.

Some judges opposed the appointment, while others supported Abdel-Rahman, one of the two judges said. He said the arguments were still going on as the postponement of the session was announced.

The other judge appeared to complain about outside interference in the court. When asked what the problem was, he replied, "Matters are not in our hands."

It appeared some members were trying to bring back the former chief judge, Rizgar Mohammed Amin, or the another jurist who was removed from the panel, Saeed al-Hammash.

The two judges who spoke to AP were members of the Special Tribunal trying the ousted Iraqi leader, though not necessarily sitting on the panel hearing the current case. They both spoke on condition of anonymity since court rules bar most judges from being named.

Amin, the chief judge who presided over the first seven sessions of the trial since it began Oct. 19, submitted his resignation Jan. 15 after complaints by politicians and officials that he failed to maintain control of the proceedings.