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Saddam on hunger strike

The ousted Iraqi leader and three of his co-defendants are protesting against the lack of security for their attorneys.

india Updated: Jul 13, 2006 14:03 IST

Saddam Hussein and three of his co-defendants have been on a hunger strike for nearly a week to protest what the defence says is a lack of security for their attorneys, the US military has said.

Lawyers for Saddam and co-defendants Barzan Ibrahim, Taha Hussein Ramadan and Awad al-Bandaron announced a boycott of the proceedings this week unless their demands were met for greater security after one of their colleagues was killed last month.

Saddam and the other three "have now refused meals since their evening meal on July 7," Lt Col Keir-Kevin Curry, spokesman for US military detainee operations, said on Wednesday.

"All are protesting the Iraqi High Tribunal procedures and security for the defence attorneys," he said.

The four defendants were in "good health and receiving appropriate medical care," with access to physicians at all time, he said, adding that more medical attention will be focused on those detainees who continue to refuse meals.

"Saddam has participated in various hunger strikes during his detention, but his health has never been in danger," Curry said.

The judge called a two-week recess in Saddam's trial on Tuesday and warned the defence that if they did not attend the next session, court-appointed lawyers would make Saddam's closing arguments.

The defence walkout was sparked after the June 21 slaying of Khamis al-Obeidi, the third member of the team to be assassinated since the trial began last October.