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Saddam's speech results in trial closure
Updated: 2006-03-15 20:39

Saddam Hussein testified Wednesday for the first time at his trial, insisting he still was Iraq's leader and calling the proceedings a "comedy," but the chief judge closed the trial to the public because he said the defendant was making political speeches.

The deposed president, wearing a black suit and standing before the chief judge while reading his remarks, addressed the Iraqi people about the bloody wave of sectarian violence that has rocked the country since the bombing of a major Shiite shrine last month.

"What pains me most is what I heard recently about something that aims to harm our people," Saddam said. "My conscience tells me that the great people of Iraq have nothing to do with these acts."

Chief judge Raouf Abdel-Rahman interrupted Saddam, saying he was not allowed to give political speeches in the court.

"I am the head of state," Saddam replied.

"You used to be a head of state. You are a defendant now," Abdel-Rahman said.

As Saddam continued reading from a prepared text, the judge repeatedly closed his microphone to prevent his words from being heard and told him to address the charges against him. Saddam ignored the judge and continued speaking.

"Your are being tried in a criminal case. Stop your political speech," Abdel-Rahman said angrily.

"Had it not been for politics I wouldn't be here," Saddam replied.

He went on with his speech, urging Iraqis not fight each other.

"What happened in the last days is bad," he said, referring to the recent violence. "You will live in darkness and rivers of blood for no reason."

He praised the insurgency, saying, "In my eyes, you are the resistance to the American invasion."

Finally, Abdel-Rahman ordered the session closed to the public, ordering journalists to leave the viewing chamber.

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