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Saddam pleads innocent, gets into scuffle
Updated: 2005-10-20 19:35

A defiant Saddam Hussein quarreled with judges and scuffled with guards at the opening of his long-awaited trial Wednesday, rejecting the tribunal's right to judge him and insisting he is still the president of Iraq.

Saddam Hussein holds a copy of the Quran as his trial begins in a heavily fortified courthouse in Baghdad's Green Zone, Iraq, Wednesday Oct. 19, 2005. Hussein pleaded innocent to charges including pre-meditated murder and torture and argued with the judge, challenging the legitimacy of the court as his first trial for alleged atrocities by his toppled regime opened Wednesday in the former headquarters of his Baath Party. [AP]

Sitting inside a white pen with metal bars, Saddam appeared gaunt and frail and his salt-and-pepper beard was unkempt as he pleaded innocent to charges of murder, torture, forced expulsions and illegal detentions. He wore a suit with a white shirt and no tie.

Gone were the Homburg hat, the cigar, the shotgun fired from a reviewing stand. So were a few pounds after nearly two years in an American military prison. Still, the swagger and the smirk remained, the bearing of a man accustomed to 23 years of unchallenged power.

If convicted, the 68-year-old Saddam and seven of his regime's henchmen who appeared with him in the hearing could face the death penalty for their role in the 1982 killing of nearly 150 people from the mainly Shiite town of Dujail north of Baghdad after a failed attempt on Saddam's life.
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