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Saddam declares hunger strike as trial chaos continues

[JURIST] Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive] on Tuesday told the Iraqi High Criminal Court - formerly the Iraqi Special Tribunal [official website] - that he was on hunger strike [JURIST report] in protest at the way chief judge Ra'uf Rasheed Abdel-Rahman [BBC profile] has been treating Hussein and his co-defendants. Abdel-Rahman began presiding over the trial [JURIST news archive] last month after his predecessor resigned [JURIST report] amid criticism that he had been too lenient during proceedings. Abdel has attempted to take a tougher stance in the courtroom, saying that he will not tolerate outbursts and disobedience by the defendants, even removing defendants [JURIST report] who complained about their treatment. Hussein and his lawyers have boycotted the trial [JURIST report] in protest of Abdel-Rahman. Hussein appeared in court Monday, but said that his appearance was forced [JURIST report]; his lawyers continue to boycott proceedings.

Hussein and his co-defendants face charges of murder, torture, forced expulsions and illegal imprisonment stemming from the 1982 massacre in Dujail [JURIST report]. The court heard testimony from three witnesses Tuesday, including a former intelligence officer and former personal aide to Hussein. A third witness refused to cooperate with the court, saying he was present against his will. Hussein told the court that the other defendants were also on hunger strike. Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, Hussein's half-brother and co-defendant, appeared for the second day in a row in his long underwear, signaling his rejection of the court. Proceedings have now been adjourned until February 28. BBC News has more.

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