Saddam Hussein may testify to his former vice president’s innocence next week after a plea by the defense team on Wednesday to let the Iraqi leader speak up for those charged with him of crimes against humanity.

The judge, underlining that Iraqi law normally forbids defendants from taking to the witness stand in defense of their co-accused, resisted but said he would consider the request.

Saddam, who sat subdued but relaxed during testimony from witnesses for the four minor Baath party militants in the dock alongside him, has previously taken personal responsibility for all actions of the Iraq state during his three-decade rule.

Dressed in a familiar dark suit, he intervened briefly on Wednesday — to joke about a co-defendant who excitedly pleaded his innocence.

Having heard witnesses this week for the four little-known defendants, Judge Raouf Abdul Rahman adjourned until Monday, when testimony will start on behalf of Baathist judge Awad al- Bandar, former vice president Taha Yassin Ramadan, Saddam’s half -brother Barzan al-Tikriti and Saddam himself.

Saddam, who has insisted in stormy televised appearances on declaring he is still the president of Iraq, told the court in March he ordered the trials that led to death sentences for 148 Shi’ite men from Dujail because they were Shi’ite plotters who tried to kill him there in 1982, when he was waging war on Iran.

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