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Turmoil As Saddam Trial Resumes

The court in the Saddam Hussein trial allowed former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark and another foreign defense lawyer to address the session Monday, reversing a ruling that had led the defense to walk out.

After a 90-minute recess, Chief Judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin allowed Clark and ex-Qatari Justice Minister Najib al-Nueimi to speak on the questions of the legitimacy of the tribunal and safety of the lawyers.

There were other disruptions in the courtroom, reports CBS News correspondent Kimberly Dozier. Saddam Hussein jumped out of his chair many times to attack the judge, the court and the whole process, and calling it made in America. And a co-defendant yelled "why don't you just execute us and get it over with?"

After the defense was allowed to make its arguments, the court heard from the first witnesses in the courtroom, a man from Dujail who is testifying about what happened after a failed assassination attempt on Saddam in 1982, reports CBS News correspondent Cami McCormick. He was interrupted by Saddam and the other defendants, but the judge told him to ignore them. He talked of mass shootings, hundreds of people being rounded up and arrested, even women and very young children.

In other developments:

  • 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.
  • The U.S. military says a soldier assigned to Task Force Baghdad was killed when a patrol hit a roadside bomb on Sunday. No other details were released and the name of the victim was withheld pending notification of kin.
  • In Saddam's hometown of Tikrit, a demonstration of support for the former ruler turned violent when protesters began tearing down election posters. Police intervened and arrested three people.

    "Reconciliation is essential," Clark told the court. "This trial can divide or heal. Unless it is seen as absolutely fair, and fair in fact, it will divide rather than reconcile Iraq."

    At that point the judge reminded Clark that he was to speak only about the security guarantees for the defense lawyers — two of whom have been assassinated since the trial began Oct. 19.

    Clark then said all parties were entitled to protection and the measures offered to protect the defense and their families were "absurd." Clark said that without such protection, the judicial system would collapse.

    Al-Nueimi then spoke about the legitimacy issue, arguing that court is not independent and was in fact set up under the U.S.-led occupation rather than by a legal Iraqi government. He said the language of the statute was unchanged from that promulgated by the former top U.S. administrator in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, and was therefore "illegitimate."

    "The challenge for the judges," said CBS News Foreign Affairs Analyst Pamela Falk, "is to avoid allowing Saddam Hussein to use the platform to portray himself as a victim while the court conducts a fair trial."

  • "What's important is he's being held account for the atrocities he's been charged for," White House adviser Dan Bartlett said on CBS News' The Early Show. "Saddam Hussein was a terrible threat to the country, to the world, in the way he treated his own people. He's directly responsible for the death of tens of thousands of people in his own country and it's critical he be held to account."

    As French officials began working on the latest kidnapping case, German officials and a British peace activist reported no progress in obtaining the release of a German aid worker and four members of Christian Peacemaker Teams.

    In Berlin, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said a special crisis team was working around the clock to secure the release of Susanne Osthoff, 43, and her driver, but had no further information on their fate Monday. They were seized on Nov. 25.

    In a video made public on Tuesday but never broadcast in full, her kidnappers threatened to kill her unless Germany stops cooperating with the Iraqi government. According to news reports in Germany, the kidnappers ultimatum expired in the early hours of Friday, but the government has refused to comment on those reports.

    "The German government is continuing its efforts to clarify the fate of the German citizen who has been missing in Iraq since last Friday," Jens Ploetner, spokesman for the German Foreign Ministry told reporters.

    "The German Foreign Ministry and all other relevant ministries are working on it around the clock and met over the weekend," Ploetner said.

    Meanwhile in Baghdad, Anas Altikriti, leading member of the British anti-war movement, met leaders of the Iraqi Islamic Party. He told journalists that he had no direct contact with the kidnappers who abducted the peace activists in a separate incident.

    On Friday, Al-Jazeera broadcast a videotape and statement in which the kidnappers threatened to kill the hostages unless all prisoners in U.S. and Iraqi detention centers were freed by December 8.

    The Christian activists — Norman Kember, 74, of London; Tom Fox, 54, of Clear Brook, Virginia; James Loney, 41, of Toronto; and Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32, of Canada — had been repeatedly warned by Iraqi and Western security officials that they were taking a grave risk by moving about Baghdad without bodyguards.

    The group has asked that no military action be taken to free the hostages and has appealed to the groups that has taken credit for the abduction — the Swords of Righteousness Brigade — to release them.

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