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(photo credit: AP)
The chief judge in the trial of former Iraqi dictator formally charged Saddam Hussein on Monday with crimes against humanity, including torture of women and children, murder and the illegal arrest of 399 people in a crackdown against Shi'ites in the 1980s. A defiant Saddam refused to enter a plea.
Saddam, who was alone in the defendants' pen as the charges were read, stood holding a copy of the Koran and insisted he was still Iraq's president, saying he did not recognize the court.
"Your honor, you gave a long report. That report can't be summed up by saying guilty or not," Saddam, dressed in a black suit, said after chief judge Raouf Abdel-Rahman read the charges list and asked for a plea.
"Your honor is now before Saddam Hussein, the president of Iraq," Saddam said. "I am the president of Iraq by the will of the Iraqis, and I remain president of Iraq up to this moment. I respect the will of the Iraqi people and I will defend it with honor in the face of the collaborators and in the face of America.
"I do not recognize the collaborators that they brought to appoint a court and put forward a law with retroactive effect against the head of state, who is protected by the constitution and the law," he said.
Abdel-Rahman entered a plea of not guilty for Saddam.
With the reading of charges, the trial - which began Ocober 19 - enters a new phase, with the defense presenting its case. After hearing from five defense witnesses in the five-hour session, the court adjourned until Tuesday.
Saddam and seven former members of his regime are on trial over a crackdown against residents of the town of Dujail, and they face a possible execution by hanging if found guilty.