Saddam Hussein's genocide trial resumed on Monday, four days after the chief judge told the ex-president that "you were not a dictator," sparking Kurdish demands he be replaced.
Judge Abdullah al-Amiri, a Shiite Arab, made the comment on Thursday after Saddam, a Sunni, challenged testimony by a Kurdish farmer who said the ousted president ordered him to "shut up" when he begged for the release of nine missing relatives.
"Why did he try to see Saddam Hussein (if) Saddam Hussein was a dictator and was against the Kurdish people?" the former president asked.
The judge replied: "You are not a dictator. You were not a dictator. However, the people or the individuals and officials surrounding you created a dictator (out of you). It was not you in particular. It happens all over the world."
"Thank you," Saddam responded, bowing his head in respect.
The friendly exchange angered the Kurdish community, which had already complained al-Amiri he was too lenient with Saddam.
"The judge is weak and isn't doing his duty," Kurdish elder statesman Mahmoud Othman said on Thursday.
"We as Kurdish politicians ask for a change in judges, and he must be replaced. There are 182,000 victims of Anfal, and this judge's manner could affect the verdict."
Last Wednesday, the veteran judge rejected prosecution demands that he step aside after allowing Saddam to lash out at Kurdish witnesses the day before.