A lawyer working on the defence of a co-accused in the trial of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was kidnapped late Thursday by armed men who stormed into his office just a day after the process started.The bizarre twist to the already dramatic beginning of the trial came as a reporter from the Guardian newspaper who was kidnapped while reporting in Baghdad the day earlier was freed following interior ministry intervention.
Kidnapped lawyer Saadoun Janabi is an attorney for Awad Hamad Al-Bandar Al-Sadun, one of Saddam's seven co-defendants in trial for a 1982 massacre of Shiites in the town of Dujail.
Al-Sadun, a former chief judge of the revolutionary court and deputy head of Saddam's office, sat next to Saddam in the front row when the trial opened Wednesday.
The unidentified abductors arrived aboard two vehicles and forcefully took Janabi from his office around 8.20pm local time (3.45am AEST), according to security sources.
The abduction came as Saddam's lawyers drew up a battle plan for his next court date after the stormy start of a landmark trial many fear will exacerbate Iraq's deep sectarian divide.
A defiant Saddam and seven former regime officials all pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges including murder and torture on the first day of a trial by millions watched across the globe.
"The trial of the 21st Century — Saddam and his era in the dock," was the headline of Iraq's Al-Mashiraq newspaper.
Saddam and the seven former cohorts for the killing of more than 140 Shiites from the village of Dujail in 1982 after an attempt on his life there. The accused face execution if convicted.
It is the first time an Arab leader has gone on trial for crimes against his own people.
Violence flared the day after the hearing, with 13 Iraqis killed in various attacks, including a suicide car bombing targeting a US patrol. Five US troops were killed in attacks on Wednesday.
Divisions in Iraqi society were evident following the trial with about 300 people staging a pro-Saddam demonstration in the northern village of Hawijah carrying pictures of the deposed dictator and calling for his release.
But Shiite deputy parliament speaker Hussein Shahristani said: "Saddam deserves as many executions as mass grave victims."
The hearing was adjourned to November 28 so witnesses could be questioned about the massacre. Defense lawyers also said they had not been given enough time to review the evidence in the case.
Irish journalist Rory Carroll of the Guardian newspaper was released Thursday following a day-long ordeal at the hands of his kidnappers in Baghdad, the interior ministry and the paper said.
"The journalist was seized in Baladiyat, (eastern Baghdad) by armed gunmen," the interior ministry said. "Interior ministry services arrested some members of the group that kidnapped him, there was an interrogation, and we freed him."
Carroll, who had reportedly been accompanied by three people, including at least one driver and a translator, was bundled into a car with one of them, according to the newspaper, which is one of Britain's most prominent dailies.
Iraqi officials also announced the capture of Saddam's nephew Yasser Sabawi for allegedly funding violence, and the US military said a senior lieutenant to al-Qaeda frontman Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi had been killed during raids Saturday, reports AFP. I.L.