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Saddam pleads innocent, gets into scuffle
Updated: 2005-10-19 21:21

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Saddam Hussein pleaded innocent to charges of murder and torture as his long-awaited trial began Wednesday with the one-time dictator arguing about the legitimacy of the court and scuffling with guards.

Former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein speaks as his trial in the heavily fortified courtroom in Baghdad's Green Zone Wednesday Oct. 19, 2005. Nearly two years after he was found in hiding, former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein goes on trial Wednesday charged with crimes against humanity . [AP]

The first session of the trial lasted about three hours, and the judge ordered an adjournment until Nov. 28.

Saddam and his seven co-defendants could face the death penalty if convicted for the 1982 massacre of nearly 150 Shiites in the town of Dujail. They are being tried in the former headquarters of Saddam's Baath Party.

After presiding judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin, a Kurd, read the defendants their rights and the charges against them — which also include forced expulsions and illegal imprisonment — he asked each for their plea. He started with the 68-year-old ousted dictator, saying "Mr. Saddam, go ahead. Are you guilty or innocent?"

Saddam replied quietly, "I said what I said. I am not guilty," referring to his arguments earlier in the session.

Amin read out the plea, "Innocent."

The confrontation then became physical. When a break was called, Saddam stood, smiling, and asked to step of the room. When two guards tried to grab his arms to escort him out, he angrily shook them off.

They tried to grab him again, and Saddam struggled to free himself. Saddam and the guards shoved each other and yelled for about a minute.

It ended with Saddam getting his way, and he was allowed to walk independently, with the two guards behind him, out of the room for the break.

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