BAGHDAD, Oct. 19 (UPI) -- Deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein pleaded not guilty in Baghdad Wednesday on charges he was behind the 1982 massacre of 148 Shiites in the town of Dujail.
"I am not guilty," a defiant Saddam told the court where he appeared with seven of his former officials.
The only charges against them were related to the killing of 148 people in the Shiite town of Dujail, about 50 miles north of Baghdad.
The public prosecutor accused Saddam's regime of "killing, bloodletting, robbery, embezzlement of public funds, displacing people and waging war against Iran in which 2 million were killed."
Saddam spoke first, challenging the court's legitimacy, saying he didn't recognize it, and refusing to identify himself.
"I don't recognize the authority that set you up or the sentence you will issue," he told the court of five judges headed by Zarkal al-Amin, a Kurd.
He said he "preserves his constitutional right" not to answer the court in his capacity as president.
Also Saddam's former deputy, Taha Yassin Ramadan, refused to identify himself or to answer the judges' questions. The court was adjourned till Nov. 28.
Much of the Arab world was glued to the television coverage of the trial, which was on a 30-minute delay. The trial is taking place in the heavily fortified Green Zone of Baghdad in a building that was once the headquarters for Saddam's Baath party.
Saddam's attorney, Khalil Dulaimi, said Tuesday he would ask for a delay of at least three months to further prepare for the trial.
The area where the defendants sat was surrounded by barriers of white metal bars.