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Saddam judge cuts off defense witness testimony

[JURIST] Judge Raouf Abdel-Rahman [BBC profile], the chief judge in the Saddam Hussein trial [JURIST news archive], told the courtroom Tuesday that this would be the last day the court would hear defense witnesses, fostering speculation that the trial will end soon. Abdel-Rahman cut off defense witnesses despite complaints by American defense lawyer Curtis Doebbler [Wikipedia profile] on Monday that the court is rushing the defense through their case [JURIST report], even though the prosecution had five months to present its case [JURIST report]. Doebbler also complained that the court ignored defense motions and intimidated defense witnesses. Last month, four defense witnesses were detained on perjury charges [JURIST report] after three alleged that some of the 148 Shiites that Hussein and his seven co-defendants are accused of executing are still alive, while a fourth witness claimed the prosecution bribed him to lie during testimony. All four witnesses recanted their testimony [JURIST report] late Monday, claiming they were coerced into testifying.

Abdel-Rahman also banned [Reuters report] Hussein's half brother and co-defendant Barzan al-Tikriti from the courtroom Tuesday, after throwing him out of court Monday. When the defense concludes its case, the prosecution and defense will present closing statements and the five-judge panel presiding over the trial at the Iraqi High Tribunal [official website] will adjourn to render a verdict. AP has more.

10:54 AM ET - At the close of Tuesday's hearing, Abdel-Rahman directed the prosecution to present closing arguments on Monday and scheduled defense closing arguments for July 10. AP has more.

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