- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 26, 2006

BAGHDAD — A thinner but combative Saddam Hussein said yesterday he would rather die by firing squad like a soldier than hang “like a common criminal,” as the defiant ex-president made his final appearance before the tribunal until it renders a verdict.

The prosecution has asked for the death penalty for Saddam and two of the other seven defendants for their role in the deaths of Shi’ites in a crackdown after a 1982 assassination attempt against the Iraqi ruler in Dujail.

Saddam, dressed in a white open-collar shirt and dark jacket, was in court to hear his court-appointed attorney read a final summation, arguing that prosecution witnesses and documents failed to link the ex-president to any of the atrocities in Dujail.

But that did not sit well with the 69-year-old Saddam, who denounced the lawyer as his “enemy” and contended that the summation was drafted by foreigners he accused of manipulating the trial since it began Oct. 19.

Saddam also said he was brought by the Americans against his will from a hospital, where he was rushed Sunday on the 17th day of a hunger strike and fed through a tube. Despite more than two weeks without food, Saddam seemed thinner but no less vigorous, although his energy appeared to wane in the final minutes of the hearing.

“I was brought against my will directly from the hospital,” he told the chief judge, Raouf Abdel-Rahman. “The Americans insisted that I come against my will. This is not fair.”

In a rambling statement that was often interrupted by the judge, Saddam said, “I ask you, being an Iraqi person, that if you reach a verdict of death, execution, remember that I am a military man and should be killed by firing squad and not by hanging as a common criminal.” Saddam never served in the military ranks but appointed himself a general after taking power in 1979.

That brought a rebuke from Judge Abdel-Rahman, who reminded Saddam the five-judge panel has not finished the trial, much less reached a verdict.

In Jordan, Saddam’s defense lawyers rebuked the court for “forcing” the deposed leader to attend yesterday’s hearing. They said allowing court-appointed lawyers to replace them deprived Saddam and his co-defendants of the “minimum requirement to adequate defense.”

It was Saddam’s first appearance before the tribunal since June 19, when chief prosecutor Jaafar al-Moussawi asked the court to find him guilty and sentence him to death.

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