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Saddam trial resumes with all defendants present

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BAGHDAD, March 1 (Reuters) Saddam Hussein returned to court today, the second day of hearings this week, with the prosecution attempting to prove the former Iraqi leader's role in crimes against humanity in the 1980s.

All defendants were present alongside the defence team, except lead attorney Khalil al-Dulaimi.

After a two-week break yesterday during which the 68-year-old former president staged a hunger strike, prosecutors presented what they said was a death warrant signed by Saddam in 1984 for 148 men from the Shi'ite town of Dujail.

The prosecution has seven witnesses left, one being the interior minister at the time of the Dujail events, Saadoun Shaker, and six residents of Dujail, court sources said.

The testimony of one resident in the town, who died before appearing in court, was taped before the investigative magistrate, the sources said.

More documents are expected to be read into evidence today and possibly some witness testimony if time permits, court sources said.

If the prosecution can conclude its agenda, a long adjournment is expected during which court officials will formulate specific charges.

Prosecutors hope the documents will establish a direct link between Saddam and atrocities by proving a chain of command.

Saddam's trial yesterday was again thrown into disarray when his top defence lawyers walked out after their pleas for an adjournment and the removal of the judge were rejected.

Chief defence attorney Khalil al-Dulaimi and his deputy Khamis al-Obeidi staged another walkout after their attempts to win an adjournment and the expulsion of the chief judge Raouf Abdel-Rahman on grounds of bias were turned down.

Their latest protest came minutes after they lifted a boycott and returned to the chamber. Tuesday's trial was adjourned after three hours.

REUTERS KD RN1505

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