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December 7, 2005
Saddam Keeps On Manipulating

Apparently not satisfied with the results of his constant interruptions and disrepectful outbursts in court, Saddam Hussein has decided to escalate his manipulation of his trial and the media coverage by refusing to attend. The trial found itself at a standstill this morning when the former dictator refused to go into court, leaving the nonplussed judges wondering what to do next:

Saddam Hussein's trial was delayed Wednesday after the ousted president refused to attend the session, court officials said. Defense lawyers huddled with the judges in hopes of resolving the latest test of wills in the often-unruly trial.

An angry Saddam threatened at the end of the Tuesday court session to boycott the next day's proceedings after complaining that he and the seven other co-defendants had been mistreated by the "unjust court."

Court officials on Wednesday said Saddam was sticking by his vow, and the judges were trying to decide whether to proceed without him.

If the differences cannot be resolved, an official said the court might hold a closed session to search for solutions.

The resolution of this issue should be simpler than when Saddam kept disrupting the court. A defendant has a right to attend court and face his accusers, to cross-examine witnesses and to argue on his own behalf. That doesn't equate to a necessity of the defendant to attend the trial. If a defendant refuses on his own accord to show up and exercise those rights, then the People still have a right to continue the trial. Even if the defendant does want to attend, the rights of the defendant to participate do not automatically override the rights of the People to a fair trial. Disruptive behavior can and should result in removal of the defendant from court when it becomes contemptuous of the court's authority.

The Iraqis should get tough on Saddam. They've shown him deference; now they need to show some steel. If he prefers to putter around in his cell and let his lawyers deal with his trial, so be it. This is an attempt -- an all-too-successful attempt, in all likelihood -- to get the headlines off of the testimony of the victims by making himself the center of attention again. In one sense, it's typical behavior from a sociopath, but in terms of PR in Iraq, it's the only smart strategy left to him. The court needs to make sure that his absence winds up backfiring on him by continuing to present witnesses to Saddam's atrocities, this time without Saddam's running commentary distracting the global media covering the event.

Let him rot in his cell. I don't need to hear much from Saddam anyway, and I wouldn't trust anything he says unless it came accompanied by a video and corroboration from the Archangel Gabriel. The court should plow ahead and reveal Saddam's foolishness as well as his ghoulishness.

UPDATE: The show must go on, even without the uplifting presence of Uncle Saddy glowering from the dock:

Saddam Hussein's trial resumed Wednesday after a delay of several hours with the deposed Iraqi leader absent from the courtroom.

Chief Judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin opened the session at 3 p.m. (7 a.m. ET), about four hours late, and called the first witness.

Hussein's chair sat empty at the front of the dock, and his chief lawyer thanked Amin for continuing the proceedings.

So Saddam took his marbles and went back to his cell. Let him throw his tantrums there. Let's keep the trial moving from now on.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 7, 2005 6:03 AM

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