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Saddam Back In Court

A respectful Saddam Hussein sat quietly in his defendant's chair at the resumption of his trial this morning, two weeks after he refused to attend the last session in a court he called "unjust." Saddam and seven co-defendants are on trial in the deaths of more than 140 Shiite Muslims following a 1982 assassination attempt against him in the town of Dujail, north of Baghdad.

The deposed president, who was wearing a dark suit but no tie refused to attend the previous session on December 7. His behaviour was calm during the early parts of this morning's trial. After greeting the court with a traditional "Peace be upon you," he sat quietly in the defendants' area and appeared to pay close attention to the proceedings, at times taking notes.

The defence team started the session by stating security concerns. Defense lawyer Najib al-Nueimi, also ex-Qatari Justice Minister, said "we cannot continue with this trial in the coming sessions, as we have stated in the previous sessions, due to lack of security. The issue has moved from threatening the local Iraqi lawyers to issue international and religious decrees towards us personally."

It was Saddam's first court appearance following last week's election, when Iraqis swarmed to the polls to vote for the country's first full-term parliament since his downfall. The court - which held its first session Oct. 19 - has so far heard nine witnesses, who often gave emotional testimonies of random arrests, hunger and beatings while in custody and torture in detention.

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