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Saddam pleads not guilty to murder, torture charges

[JURIST] An argumentative Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive] pleaded not guilty Wednesday as he and seven co-defendants from the defunct Baath Party [Wikipedia backgrounder] went on trial before the Iraqi Special Tribunal [official website], also known as the Iraqi High Criminal Court. The eight face charges of murder, torture, forced expulsions and illegal imprisonment for the 1982 massacre of nearly 150 Shiites in the village of Dujail. If convicted, Hussein faces the death penalty by hanging [Reuters report]. The statutes governing the trial mandate that any sentence would have to be carried out within 30 days of all appeals being exhausted and thus Hussein could be executed before he is tried on other charges such as genocide. As the trial got underway Wednesday, Hussein challenged [recorded video, via BBC] the presiding judge [Reuters report], Rizgar Mohammed Amin, a Kurd, asking who he was and what the court wanted. Hussein also said he preserved his constitutional rights as the president of Iraq and said that he did recognize or intend to respond to the "so-called court." Hussein's defense team is expected to ask for a three-month adjournment [JURIST report], arguing that the court, set up by Americans, does not have jurisdiction over Hussein. The court is operating under a 1971 criminal law, promulgated under Hussein's leadership, which allows judges to issue a guilty verdict if they are merely "satisfied" by the evidence, a significantly lower standard than the traditional "reasonable doubt" test. AP has more. BBC News has additional coverage.

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