[JURIST] Saddam Hussein formally testified in his own defense for the first time Wednesday at his trial [JURIST news archive] in Iraq, calling the Iraqi High Criminal Court a "comedy" before the hearing was closed to the public. Chief Judge Ra'uf Rasheed Abdel-Rahman [BBC profile] closed the courtroom after Hussein called on Iraqis to put an end to sectarian violence and focus their efforts on attacking American troops. In a heated exchange, Abdel-Rahman told Hussein he was not allowed to give political speeches in the court, but Hussein continued to read from his prepared speech even after his microphone was turned off. Abdel-Rahman eventually ordered the session closed to the public, cut the video feed, and ordered all journalists out of the courtroom.
Hussein and his co-defendants face charges of murder, torture, forced expulsions and illegal imprisonment stemming from the 1982 massacre in Dujail [JURIST report]. Prosecutors are trying to show that Hussein's forces sought to punish the town's civilian population through hundreds of arrests and detentions. Before Hussein began his defense, his half-brother and former intelligence chief Barzan Ibrahim denied any involvement [AP report] in the Dujail crackdown, saying that he did not order any detentions of the Shiite villagers. Ibrahim also said that he has been poorly treated while in US custody and that his requests for medical tests have been ignored. The trial has now been adjourned until April 5. BBC News has more.