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Saddam: 'I am not afraid of execution'
Updated: 2005-12-06 06:56

BAGHDAD, Iraq - The first witnesses in the Saddam Hussein trial offered chilling accounts Monday of killings and torture using electric shocks and a grinder during a 1982 crackdown against Shiites, as the defiant ex-president threatened the judge and tried to intimidate a survivor.

Saddam: 'I am not afraid of execution'
Saddam Hussein addresses the court in this three picture combo during his trial held under tight security in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone, Monday Dec. 5, 2005. [AP]

One witness said he saw a machine that "looked like a grinder" with hair and blood on it in a secret police center in Baghdad where he and others were tortured for 70 days. He said detainees were kept in "Hall 63."

But defense lawyers questioned the reliability of witnesses who were only 15 and 10 at the time and walked out of the tumultuous session when the judge refused to allow former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark to address the court on Saddam's behalf. They returned after the judge relented.

Throughout the daylong session, Chief Judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin struggled to maintain order among boisterous defense outbursts. Saddam and his co-defendant and half brother, Barazan Ibrahim, gestured and shouted together, "Long Live Iraq!"

"Everyone must remain calm and be civil," Amin said repeatedly.

Saddam and his seven co-defendants could be hanged if convicted on charges stemming from the deaths of more than 140 Shiites in the town of Dujail after an assassination attempt in 1982.

"I am not afraid of execution," Saddam proclaimed at one point.

"Why don't you just execute us and get rid of all of this," Ibrahim shouted at the judge.

The trial's first witness, Ahmed Hassan Mohammed, delivered a rambling, nearly two-hour account of the events in Dujail in retaliation for an armed attack on Saddam's convoy.

Mohammed recalled how security agents rounded up townspeople of all ages, from 14 to more than 70.

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