BAGHDAD, Iraq—For the second time in as many days in his genocide and war crimes trial, former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was ordered out of the courtroom on Tuesday, sparking an eruption from the other defendants and briefly shutting down the court.
"You let the prosecutor comment and I'm not? Is this the justice you exercise? Damn this justice you are trying to serve in this court," Saddam shouted at the chief judge, the second to preside over the trial since it began in August.
"Don't use bad words," the judge shouted back, ordering guards to surround Saddam and escort him out of the courtroom.
Two other defendants were led out of the courtroom after Saddam, who barely concealed a smile as he made his way to the door.
Saddam and his six co-defendants have been on trial since Aug. 21 for their roles in a 1987-1988 crackdown on the Kurds, which has become known as the Anfal campaign, a reference to a verse in the Quran meaning roughly "the spoils of war."
They're accused of killing as many 180,000 people, mostly civilians, in a military offensive that included the use of chemical weapons. The defendants could face the death penalty if convicted.
Saddam was ordered removed from the trial on Monday when he protested the court's appointment of lawyers to defend him. His own defense team boycotted the proceedings to protest the appointment of Mohammed Oreibi al Khalifa as the presiding judge.
The latest exchange, watched on television by entertainment-deprived Iraqis as if it were a morning soap opera, fueled rumors that Khalifa might soon be sacked and a third judge appointed.
Things got off to a rocky start on Tuesday when Saddam entered the court and immediately asked to leave.
Khalifa began a long speech, talking about the Iraqi justice system and how it was developed over centuries.
"If you want to defend yourself, submit your arguments. We are a court. It has no connection to politics. When you want to leave the legal framework, we will not allow you," he said. "Try to cope with the session requirements and you will see how much time you will get to defend yourself. Humiliation and abuse of the court will take you nowhere."
At that point, Saddam pulled a piece of paper from his Quran and began reading. The judge ordered microphones turned off as Saddam continued reading for 14 minutes. After the reading, the judge and Saddam exchanged what appeared to be often heated words, each pointing his finger and shaking his fist.
Saddam stood up during the testimony of the second witness of the day, a resident in his mid-60s from the mostly Kurdish city of Sulaimaniyah, who talked of having his town destroyed in the Anfal campaign. Khalifa asked Saddam if he had a question.
Saddam said he didn't.
"OK, sit down," the judge ordered. That started the fireworks.
"You are a defendant and I'm a judge," Khalifa said as Saddam interrupted. "Shut up. No one talk. The court has decided to eject Saddam Hussein from court."
As Saddam was led from the room, the other defendants, almost on cue, stood and demanded to leave as well. The judge ordered them to sit, but they refused.
"I don't know how to deal with you," the judge shouted.
Defendant Sultan Hashim Ahmad al Tai, a former defense minister, shouted back in anger, "Don't shout at us. We are not children. We defended this country. It is not you who is teaching us to be polite. We are teaching you."
At that point, he was escorted out, continuing to yell.
The next defendant, Hussein Rashid Mohammed, a former chief of staff of the Iraqi army, said: "I served Iraq for 44 years. If you want to execute us, execute us. You can't insult us with these charges. We have dignity." He was removed, with two guards holding both his arms.
The other defendants remained standing as guards surrounded their cages in the courtroom. The judge ordered the curtains to the press gallery closed and declared a recess. When the afternoon session resumed, the defendants' cages were empty. The court recessed until Oct. 9.
(c) 2006, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.