Judge says Saddam 'not dictator'
Mr Amiri has been accused of bias in favour of the defence
The chief judge in Saddam Hussein's trial has said the former Iraqi leader was not a dictator, but had only been made to seem like one by his aides. The controversial comments come a day after Judge Abdullah al-Amiri was accused of bias towards the defence.
During the court session, a Kurdish man recalled a 1989 audience with Saddam Hussein, which he had hoped would secure freedom for his jailed family. Saddam Hussein and six others are on trial for war crimes against Kurds.
The trial comes against a backdrop of increased violence. On Thursday, US forces said they had captured an al-Qaeda leader in one of several raids in Baghdad. Another al-Qaeda leader, Abu Jaafar al-Liby, is said to have been killed in a raid by Iraqi forces. Elsewhere in Baghdad, police said at least 10 people had been killed in two car bomb attacks on Thursday.
The first blast happened in a mixed Shia and Sunni area in north-western Baghdad. The second bomb exploded outside a passport office. Elsewhere, a traffic-police colonel was shot dead on his way to work in Baghdad.
The exchange between the judge and Saddam Hussein came after the testimony of Abdullah Mohammed Hussain. Saddam Hussein asked the 57-year-old witness: "Why did you try to meet me when you knew I was a dictator?" "You were not a dictator. People around you made you [look like] a dictator," the judge said. I consoled myself, thinking that Saddam may feel sorry for me and set my family free Abdullah Mohammed Hussain
"Thank you," Saddam Hussein replied.
Earlier in the high-profile trial taking place within Baghdad's high-security Green Zone, Mr Hussain said how he had met the Iraqi leader in 1989 after the end of the Anfal campaign against the Kurds. He said the meeting came after repeated requests to the Iraqi military. "I told Saddam: 'Sir, my family members were arrested'," Mr Hussain, a farmer, told the court. "Saddam asked me where, and I told him: 'In my village'. Saddam said: 'Shut up. Your family is gone in the Anfal'."
The Iraqi president told him to "get out of here", he said. "I saluted him, saying: 'Yes, sir.' And I left. I consoled myself, thinking that Saddam may feel sorry for me and set my family free. I was very sad. But I really hoped he would release them," he said. Mr Hussain said the remains of some of his relatives turned up in a mass grave only two years ago, but that there was no trace of others. The witness also described how his village of Sida, near the Kurdish city of Suleimaniya, came under attack by artillery fire and aircraft during the Anfal campaign. On Wednesday, chief prosecutor Munqith al-Faroon called for the judge to stand down for alleged bias towards the defendants, saying the accused had been given too much room to threaten witnesses and make political speeches.
The previous day, Saddam Hussein had threatened to "crush the head" of a lawyer of one witness for the prosecution. The former leader and others, including his cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid, are accused of killing up to 180,000 Kurdish civilians during Operation Anfal.