<!--:es-->Saddam, back in court, accuses US of torture<!--:-->

Saddam, back in court, accuses US of torture

"I have been hit by the Americans and tortured," told Saddam

«Yes, I’ve been beaten on every place of my body and the signs are all over my body,» he added.

«We were beaten by the Americans and we were tortured, everyone of us,» he said, pointing to his seven co-accused in the dock who are being tried for the murder of some 140 Shiites killed in reprisal for an assassination attempt on the former dictator in 1982 in the town of Dujail.

Saddam has been detained by US forces since his capture two years ago.

The chief prosecutor immediately suggested that, if this were the case, he would ask US forces to hand over the defendants to the Iraqi authorities.

«Our enemy is not the American people. Our enemy is the American government which is destroying Iraq,» Saddam also said.

Saddam also described insurgents as «brave men», adding that they were doing «good work».

A senior US diplomat at the embassy in Baghdad, Christopher Reid, told CNN television the claims were «bogus».

«The claims are absolutely bogus,» he said.

«It’s a strategic move. A move that has nothing to do with reality or the truth,» he added, saying the claims came after two prosecution witnesses had spoken of how they and their relatives were beaten and tortured after being arrested in Dujail in the wake of the 1982 assassination bid.

Saddam, 68, who defiantly boycotted the last hearing two weeks ago after denouncing the legality of the tribunal and telling the judge to «go to hell», also sought to lecture the court on how the country was being «humiliated» by the judicial proceedings against him.

The trial resumed on Wednesday after a two-week break allowing for a general election to elect the first full-term government since Saddam’s repressive Baathist regime was toppled from power by the 2003 US-led invasion.

«They tortured me with electricity and I wished I could die,» said one witness who testified from behind curtains to preserve his anonymity.

During one torture session Saddam’s half-brother Barzan Tikriti, who was in charge of the secret police, «was there eating grapes and I was screaming,» said the man who was arrested, along with his family, a day after the assassination bid on Saddam.

The secret witness said he was tortured while being held for 17 days at the Dujail intelligence centre where he identified the bodies of two of his sons whom police alleged were involved in the assassination plot.

The witness and his family were later transferred to Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad where they spent 14 months before being exiled to a desert area.

During his detention in Abu Ghraib, prison guards repeatedly abused the prisoners, beating them, the witness said.

Another witness, who testified earlier in full view of the cameras and witnesses, said he could not describe the torture he witnessed at the time.

«They would take one of us away and he would return in a sheet, dripping in blood,» said witness Ali Mohammed Hussein al-Haydari, who was 14 at the time.

Testifying just a couple of feet away from a bespectacled Saddam, who sat calmly taking notes, Haydari said he was locked up with hundreds of others in the local intelligence headquarters after the regime’s clampdown.

Saddam and his co-defendants have all pleaded not guilty to charges including murder and torture but face the death penalty if convicted.

Haydari said he recognized Barzan, who at the time was in charge of the secret police and who, he said, was involved in interrogating detainees.

At one stage as he was lying down because of sickness, «Tikriti came by and asked what was wrong with me».

«He then kicked me on the leg and told guards not to treat me, adding that none in my family was worth being kept alive,» he said.

Barzan angrily denied being involved in torture and accused the witness of lying.

«I will call my own witness whose shoe is more honourable than you and your tribe. You dog!,» he shouted at the witness.

Barzan, who said his hands were «as clean as those of Moses», also denounced the Kurdish presiding judge Rizkar Mohammed Amin, saying: «If you were a real Iraqi you would be here with us in the dock.»

Earlier, the Qatari lawyer on Saddam’s defence team once again complained about lack of security for the attorneys.

«We cannot continue with this case if there is deficiency in security,» Naji al-Nuaimi said.

«We were threatened at the airport and later put up in a house with no door to the lavatory,» he complained.

Two defence lawyers were assassinated shortly after the start of the trial on October 19.

Liable to be hanged if found guilty, Saddam, who once embodied Arab defiance of the West, is the first Middle East head of state to be tried by his own people.

The trial, however, is not expected to extend past Thursday when it is likely to be adjourned again until mid-January because of the announcement of Iraq’s election results, holidays and the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.

In court, Saddam demanded in vain that the trial be adjourned to allow him to say his prayers.

He then turned in his chair, facing towards Mecca, and prayed for about 10 minutes while the prosecution witness countinued to testify.