- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 23, 2006

BAGHDAD — Saddam Hussein was hospitalized yesterday on the 17th day of a hunger strike and was being fed with a tube, the chief prosecutor said as the former Iraqi leader’s trial nears a verdict that could lead to his hanging.

Jaafar al-Moussawi said he visited the prison yesterday where Saddam and the seven other co-defendants are held and was told that the ex-president’s health “is unstable because of the hunger strike.”

“We took him to hospital, and he is being currently fed by a tube,” Mr. al-Moussawi said. He refused to identify the hospital.

Mr. al-Moussawi initially said Saddam’s condition was “not stable,” but he later said it had been stabilized.

A spokesman for the U.S. detention command confirmed that Saddam was “voluntarily receiving nutrition through a feeding tube” and that his “condition is constantly monitored by medical personnel.”

“His condition is not life-threatening,” Lt. Col. Keir-Kevin Curry said. “He remains in coalition care and custody, and we’re providing appropriate medical care. He still remains in our care and custody in one of the installations, facilities, per se.”

Saddam, 69, and three others — presumed to be co-defendants Barzan Ibrahim, Taha Yassin Ramadan and Awad al-Bandar — have been refusing food since dinner on July 7 to protest the Iraqi High Tribunal procedures and security for their defense attorneys, three of whom have been slain.

Saddam and the others are charged in a crackdown on Shi’ites in the town of Dujail after a 1982 assassination attempt against the Iraqi leader. Final summations have begun, and the next session is set for today.

But Saddam’s attorneys said they would boycott today’s session. Saddam was not scheduled to appear in court until Wednesday, Mr. al-Moussawi said.

The hunger strike was prompted by the June 21 slaying of Khamis al-Obeidi, the third member of the defense team to be killed since the trial began in October. The defense team has blamed Shi’ite militiamen for Mr. al-Obeidi’s death.

In a letter to the court, the defense said it wanted U.S. authorities to provide security for the attorneys and their families. It also demanded a 45-day recess to allow it to prepare closing statements and a promise from the court that it would be allowed to take as long as it wishes to present its final arguments.

Court spokesman Raid Juhi said the defense had rejected an offer of the same security precaution given to the judges and prosecution lawyers, namely residence inside the Green Zone, the fortified Baghdad neighborhood where the court is located.

Court officials have predicted that verdicts will reached in mid-August. Saddam and the other three top defendants face the death penalty if convicted on the charges.

Saddam also is set to go on trial Aug. 21 for a 1980s crackdown that killed an estimated 100,000 Kurds.

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