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BREAKING NEWS ~ Saddam claims beatings, torture in detention

[JURIST] AP is reporting that Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive] has claimed in trial proceedings Wednesday in Baghdad that he has been beaten "everywhere on my body" while in detention. Hussein's allegations came during an extended outburst during proceedings [JURIST report] Wednesday at the Iraqi Special Tribunal [official website] and the chief prosecutor said that if Hussein had been beaten by the US-led Multi-National Force in Iraq [official website], he would be transferred to the custody of Iraqi forces. AP has more.

12:10 PM ET - Hussein said that he and two other co-defendants had "all been beaten and tortured by Americans" as part of a lengthy complaint about the conditions of his detention. Hussein also said that the marks of beatings suffered at the hands of his US captors still remained on his body. Earlier this month, Hussein boycotted the trial [JURIST report], calling the court 'unjust' [JURIST report] and complaining about conditions in which he is being held. A spokesman for the US Embassy in Baghdad has denied Hussein's allegations [CNN report].

3:54 PM ET - White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan on Wednesday called Hussein's torture allegations "one of the most preposterous things I've heard from Saddam Hussein recently." Also Wednesday, Christopher Reid, Regime Crimes Liaison at the US Embassy in Iraq, answered questions about the Saddam Hussein trial [transcript] in an online chat. Responding to a question about Hussein's claims, Reid wrote:

I can tell you that the defendants are always watched by many people, and the people assigned to keep them in custody have always been extremely professional whenever I have observed them.

I have heard the defendants complain constantly about the food they get in the courthouse (it is the same food that the judges, prosecutors and defense counsel get -- and it is what I eat, too), and about the type of cigarettes they are supplied. I know that the soldiers who guard them have it rougher than they do. Until today, I never heard Saddam make these allegations.

... I absolutely think that Saddam has made up the allegations and used them to ambush the judge and distract from the testimony. But ANY allegation, no matter how suspect, will be investigated by the Iraqi and Coalition authorities.

The defendants have had many opportunities to report any allegations of beatings or mistreatment to the tribunal or to the coalition, or to their attorneys. I think the timing of the allegations says a lot about their veracity.
Before the court adjourned for the day, Hussein also told the court that he was ill [Reuters report], and asked that the court "consider this from the humanitarian and legal point of view." Hussein asked permission to address the court on Thursday, and said that time was important, but did not elaborate further. AFP has more.

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