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Saddam refuses to enter plea as Iraqi genocide trial begins

[JURIST] Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive] refused to enter a plea Monday as he and six co-defendants went on trial on genocide and crimes against humanities charges [JURIST report] in connection to the so-called "Anfal" operation [HRW backgrounder] that led to the killings of as many as 100,000 Kurds in northern Iraq in the 1980s. Chief Judge Abdullah al-Amiri [JURIST report] entered a plea of not guilty on Hussein's behalf and also entered a not guilty plea for co-defendant Ali Hassan al-Majid [BBC profile], known as "Chemical Ali," who also refused to enter a plea. Hussein and six co-defendants [AP profile] all face crimes against humanity charges at the Iraqi High Tribunal, and Hussein and al-Majid face additional genocide charges. Echoing his behavior in his first trial, on crimes against humanity charges stemming from a crackdown in the Iraqi town of Dujail, Hussein refused to even give his name in court and questioned the legitimacy of the tribunal, calling it "the law of the occupation."

The court is expected to render a verdict on the separate Dujail charges [JURIST report] on October 16. Hussein is eligible for the death penalty [JURIST report] in that case, and a US official, speaking anonymously, indicated that the Anfal trial could continue posthumously [JURIST report] should Hussein be executed before proceedings in the second trial conclude. Rights groups have questioned the fairness of the Iraqi tribunal [JURIST report] and have called for the court to improve its practices for the second trial. BBC News has more.

9:52 AM ET - AP is now reporting that the trial has been adjourned until Tuesday.

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