The chief judge in Saddam Hussein's genocide trial said on Thursday that he did not believe the former Iraqi leader was a dictator.
Judge Abdullah al-Amiri made his remark in a friendly chat with Saddam during court proceedings, a day after the prosecution said the judge should step down because he is biased toward the defence.
Saddam and his co-defendants are being tried on charges of committing atrocities against Kurds in northern Iraq nearly two decades ago.
Two hours after the comment about Saddam, al-Amiri abruptly postponed the session until Monday for what he called 'technical reasons," without having heard from a third scheduled witness. No further explanation was given.
Earlier on Thursday, a 57-year-old Kurdish farmer testified that the ex-president aggressively told him to "shut up" when he pleaded for the release of nine missing relatives.
"I wonder why this man (the witness) wanted to meet with me, if I am a dictator?" Saddam asked.
The judge interrupted, "You were not a dictator. People around you made you (look like) a dictator."
"Thank you," Saddam responded, bowing his head in respect.
A Shiite Muslim with 25 years experience, al-Amiri was a member of Saddam's Baath party and served as a judge in a criminal court under the former leader's regime. He heads the five-judge panel that will decide the fate of Saddam, a Sunni Muslim.