BAGHDAD, Iraq – After nine months of testimony, the troubled trial of Saddam Hussein adjourned Thursday until mid-October, when the five judges are expected to render a verdict that could send the ousted president to the gallows.
The final hearing ended without Saddam in court but with two of his seven co-defendants proclaiming their innocence and slamming the tribunal for alleged bias. Chief Judge Raouf Abdel-Rahman adjourned the trial until Oct. 16, when the verdicts are expected.
Saddam and the seven others have been on trial since Oct. 19 for their alleged roles in the killings of more than 148 Shiite Muslims in the town of Dujail as punishment for an assassination attempt against Saddam there in 1982.
The prosecution has asked for the death penalty for Saddam and two other defendants. Executions in Iraq are carried out by hanging, but Saddam has asked to die like a soldier before a firing squad and not by the gallows “like a common criminal.”
Saddam is due to stand trial Aug. 21 for the bloody suppression of Iraqi Kurds in the 1980s.
On Thursday, court-appointed attorneys read final summations on behalf of former Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan and Awad al-Bandar, the revolutionary court judge who sentenced the Dujail Shiites to death.
The attorneys argued the evidence failed to establish the defendants ordered the deaths and torture suffered by the people of Dujail in the crackdown – the same argument put forward by Saddam’s court-appointed lawyer in his summation Wednesday.
Nevertheless, both Ramadan and al-Bandar lashed out at their substitute counsels, claiming they had been chosen by foreign advisers.
The original members of the defense team had boycotted the trial following last month’s kidnap-slaying of a colleague, the third defense attorney killed.
The trial was also tarnished by the resignation of the original chief judge, who allowed Saddam and the others to deliver political speeches before television cameras in the court.
Saddam and three other defendants began a hunger strike July 7 to protest the conduct of the trial and the lack of security for their lawyers. They ceased their protest after Saddam was hospitalized Sunday and fed through a tube.