BAGHDAD — Saddam Hussein went into an extended outburst at his trial yesterday, claiming he had been beaten and tortured by his American captors while in detention after a witness testified that the former dictator’s agents had tortured people by ripping off their skin.
Chief prosecutor Jaafar al-Mousawi said he would investigate and that if American-led multinational forces were abusing the former Iraqi leader, he would be transferred to the custody of Iraqi troops.
“I want to say here, yes, we have been beaten by the Americans and we have been tortured,” Saddam said, before gesturing to his seven co-defendants around him, “one by one.”
After sitting quietly through several hours of testimony, Saddam said he had been beaten “everywhere on my body. The marks are still there.”
In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack called it “highly ironic” that Saddam would accuse his jailers of mistreatment.
“I know of nothing that would substantiate such a claim,” Mr. McCormack said, adding that Saddam has been “given to grandstanding in this trial.”
According to the Pentagon, the Iraqi government has legal custody and control of Saddam, while U.S. forces maintain his physical custody in a detention facility.
Saddam and his co-defendants are on trial in the deaths of more than 140 Shi’ites after a 1982 assassination attempt against him in the town of Dujail, north of Baghdad.
Standing in the railed defendants’ area, Saddam complained at length about the conditions of his detention, engaging in a debate with Mr. al-Mousawi.
Earlier, Saddam was composed as a witness testified that the former dictator’s regime killed and tortured people by administering electric shocks and ripping off their skin after pouring molten plastic on it.
Ali Hassan Mohammed al-Haidari was the prosecution’s first witness yesterday, testifying about killings and torture in Dujail after the attempt to assassinate Saddam.
Mr. al-Haidari, who was 14 in 1982, started off by quoting from the Koran, the Islamic holy book, about how evil would be defeated.
Mr. al-Haidari, whose brother was the trial’s first witness, testified that seven of his brothers were executed by Saddam’s regime and their bodies have not been found.
Interrupting Mr. al-Haidari, Saddam asked the judge if the court could take a break for prayer. Though the witness agreed, the judge ordered the trial to continue. About 10 minutes later, Saddam swung his chair to the left, closed his eyes and repeatedly bowed his head in what appeared to be about a minute-long prayer, the first time he has done that in court.
At another point in the trial, Saddam’s half brother and intelligence director, Barzan Ibrahim, began an unruly exchange that was largely edited out of the televised feed. He called Mr. al-Haidari “a dog” and his dead brothers “rotten dogs.”
Barzan, who was accused of supervising torture sessions while eating grapes, told the court his hands were “as clean as those of Moses.”