BAGHDAD - Saddam Hussein's defence team sought to tear a hole in the case against him on today, saying that 10 people out of 148 said to have been killed after an attempt on his life were still alive 24 years later.
"We contest the authenticity of the documents presented in this case," a defence lawyer said after reading out a list of their names in the heavily-protected Baghdad courtroom.
"I demand the halting of the court proceedings."
Saddam, who stands accused of crimes against humanity together with seven other defendants for bloody reprisals unleashed after gunmen tried to kill him in 1982, also disputed prosecution evidence, saying it was "false and not real".
Chief Judge Raouf Abdel Rahman said angrily: "All of you keep repeating the same phrase, that this court is invalid ... even people in the streets know this phrase by heart."
At the trial, which began in October, Saddam and his co-accused face charges in connection with the killings of 148 Shi'ite Muslims after the failed assassination bid in the small town of Dujail, north of Baghdad.
The defendants have pleaded "not guilty" or, like Saddam, were ruled to have so pleaded after contesting the US-backed court's legitimacy. If convicted, they could be hanged.
Killed in Iran war
Defence lawyers, who started presenting witnesses last month after the completion of the prosecution case, have accused the prosecution of trying to buy a witness and putting on the stand a man who perjured himself.
They protested against last week's arrest of four of their witnesses on suspicion of making false allegations against the prosecution, saying they had been beaten and insulted.
At the weekend, Saddam's main lawyer said the court was bullying and intimidating the defence team and its witnesses to try to undermine its case.
The lawyer who read the names of people he said were still alive said one of those listed among the Dujail dead, Ali Hussain Mohammad, was now a lawyer himself.
"I demand that the court ask the bar about him."
He also named five others who he said had died but not in 1982, including two who were killed in the 1980s Iran-Iraq war.
A defence witness told the court last week that 23 of the 148 believed killed from Dujail were still alive.