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Saddam lawyers open defense with witness testimony

[JURIST] Defense witnesses began testifying Tuesday in the trial of Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive], following Monday's reading of formal charges [JURIST report] against the deposed Iraqi leader and seven co-defendants for murder, torture, and the illegal arrests of 399 people in Dujail as part of a crackdown in the town after an assassination attempt on Hussein's life. Witnesses, who were unidentified and included some relatives of the defendants, testified while concealed behind a curtain. Hussein and four of the co-defendants were not in the courtroom on Tuesday during the witness testimony, but presiding Judge Raouf Abdel-Rahman [BBC profile] said that the presence of Hussein's lawyers ensured fairness in the proceedings.

After being formally charged yesterday, Hussein and his co-defendants refused to enter a plea and Hussein insisted that he remained the leader of Iraq and claimed the trial was illegal. Abdel-Rahman entered not guilty pleas on their behalf. Under Iraqi criminal law [summary, PDF; Iraqi Criminal Procedure Code, PDF], defendants are not formally charged until after the prosecution has presented its evidence; but once they are charged, the defendants have the burden of disproving the charges against them. AP has more.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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