Saddam Hussein pleaded not guilty to charges including pre-meditated murder and torture as he argued with the judges today, challenging the legitimacy of the court as his first trial opened in the former headquarters of his Baath Party.
The 68-year-old Saddam and seven former members of his regime could face the death penalty if convicted over the 1982 massacre of nearly 150 Shiites in the town of Dujail.
After presiding judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin, a Kurd, read the defendants their rights and the charges against them - which also include forced expulsions and illegal imprisonment - he asked each for their plea. He started with the ousted dictator, saying "Mr. Saddam, go ahead. Are you guilty or innocent?"
The ousted Iraqi leader replied quietly, "I said what I said. I am not guilty," referring to his arguments earlier in the session. Amin read out the plea, "Innocent".
The three-hour session was stormy, with Saddam arguing with judges. When a break was called, Saddam stood, smiling, asked to step of the room, but when two guards tried to grab his arms to escort him out, he angrily shook them off.
They tried to grab him again, and Saddam struggled to get free, being shaken during a shoving match that lasted about a minute as they yelled at each other.
It ended with Saddam getting his way, and he was allowed to walk independently, with the two guards behind him, out of the room for the break. He did not appear harmed.
When the break ended, the judge announced that the session was adjourned until November 28.
More on this story in Thursday's Birmingham Post