Almost four months since it opened, the trial of Saddam Hussein has been plagued by violence and the courtroom antics of Saddam and his seven co-defendants. Saddam's boycott of the court last week forced its chief judge to adjourn hearings until next week. So is a credible trial still possible? A look inside the world's most contentious courtroom. 1 - IN THE DOCK
From the start, Saddam and his co-defendants--all charged with playing a role in the 1982 massacre in Dujail, a town north of Baghdad--have disrupted the trial by questioning the court's legitimacy and accusing the judges of being pawns of the U.S. When Barzan Ibrahim Hasan al-Tikriti, Saddam's half brother and former spy chief, was forcibly removed from the room last week after calling the court a "child of adultery," Saddam and the entire defense team stormed out in protest. The trial, which is held in the hulking former Baath Party headquarters inside Baghdad's heavily guarded Green Zone, will resume Feb. 13, but the defendants may not appear in person. Instead they will be able to watch proceedings on closed-circuit television. If Saddam wants to question witnesses, which is allowed under Iraqi law, he can pass written queries to his attorneys. The chief judge says the defendants may return if they behave "in the proper way" but that their presence isn't essential for the trial to continue.
2 - ON THE BENCH
Raouf Abdel-Rahman was appointed last month to head the five-judge panel. For security reasons, three judges are not identified and never photographed. Abdel-Rahman took over after former chief judge Rizkar Mohammed Amin resigned to protest meddling by Iraqi government officials. One of Saddam's lawyers claims that Abdel-Rahman, a Kurd from Halabja, has a "personal feud" with Saddam and isn't impartial. Abdel-Rahman has rejected complaints by the defense, declaring that "political speeches have no place in this courtroom."
3 - BRINGING CHARGES
The team of attorneys is led by chief prosecutor Jaafar al-Mousawi. Two have declined to be identified for security reasons. The prosecution is seeking to prove that Saddam and his co-defendants ordered the killing of 143 townspeople, mainly Shi'ites, in retaliation for a failed assassination attempt on the former President in 1982. In court, the prosecutors, like prosecutors anywhere, prod witnesses to testify against the defendants.
4 - GIVING WITNESS
Under the Iraqi criminal system, the court hears testimony from "complainants" who describe the alleged crime, followed by witnesses who corroborate the details. Those testifying sit in a screened box, and their voices are sometimes digitized to disguise their identity. The 27 people who have testified so far have provided detailed accounts of torture at the hands of Saddam's security forces, but only the last two have directly implicated any of the co-defendants.
5 - FOR THE DEFENSE
The original eight-member team included former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark. After the defense lawyers walked out of the courtroom last week, they were replaced with a new, court-appointed team, but Saddam and the other defendants refuse to attend the trial until the new chief judge resigns. Members of the defense team have said they have been denied access to pieces of evidence against their clients.
6 - PEOPLE'S COURT