The defence team in the trial of Saddam Hussein protested yesterday over the arrest of four of its witnesses, saying some of them were beaten by Iraqi guards.
The chief judge said they were jailed on suspicion of perjury.
The witnesses, who were jailed last week after testifying, included one who claimed that some of the 148 Shiites that Saddam and his seven co-defendants are accused of killing were still alive.
"Two of them were arrested inside the court while two others were arrested inside the Green Zone," defence lawyer Khamis al-Obeidi said.
"They were beaten by the Iraqi army." "They committed perjury. Should I reward them?" chief judge Raouf Abel-Rahman said.
It was not known who the other three detained witnesses were.
But the arrests came after Wednesday's session, when one witness alleged that the chief prosecutor in the trial, Jaafar al-Moussawi, had attempted to bribe him to testify against Saddam.
Al-Moussawi denied the charge, and Abdel-Rahman warned the witness he could face prosecution for perjury.
Abdel- Rahman showed increasing impatience yesterday with a new defence strategy throwing doubt on the prosecution's case against Saddam and seven former members of his regime.
He shouted repeatedly at defence lawyers trying to argue that prosecution documents should be reviewed to determine if they were authentic.
The eight are accused of crimes against humanity in a sweep against the town of Dujail, including torturing prisoners and killing 148 Shiites sentenced to death for a 1982 assassination attempt against Saddam.
But defence lawyer Wadud Fawzi read a list of 15 names from the 148 who he said were still alive, died natural deaths later or were killed in the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. "There are basic mistakes in the prosecution's case," Fawzi told the court.
"We contest the authenticity of documents presented in this court and demand the court be halted to investigate the case."
Abdel-Rahman ordered the defence to provide documents proving the 15 were still alive or were not killed in the crackdown.
But he refused to halt the trial and argued with Fawzi over the line of defence, saying, "All these demands are not helping your clients."
The prosecution has said all 148 were either executed or were tortured to death before they were sentenced to death.
Saddam has acknowledged in court that he ordered the 148 sent to trial but he disputed a written order for the trial and a memo approving the death sentences that the prosecution presented earlier.
His signatures on the documents were confirmed by Iraqi handwriting experts.
The trial continues.