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Saddam Hussein’s trial begins on Wednesday amid claims that the process is a display of victor’s justice. He has been charged with a lesser-known massacre of 140 people so that he can be more speedily convicted and executed. The burden of proof has been reduced from reasonable doubt “to the satisfaction of the judges”. There are accusations of American orchestration and political interference from the Iraqi government.

Usher: All rise. The People versus Saddam is now in session.

Lead judge: (donning black hat) Saddam Hussein, you are guilty of heinous crimes and there is only one sentence I can pass, that you be taken from here to a place of execution, where you will get what’s coming to you, you murdering bastard.

Defence counsel: With respect, we haven’t actually had the trial yet.

Judge: Are you really going to make us jump through all these hoops? Wasting court time is a very serious offence you know. The punishment is, erm, death.

Defence: We’ll take our chances.

Judge: You know the burden of proof is “to the satisfaction of the judges”. Well I’m satisfied. (pause) Oh, if we must. How does he plead?

Saddam: Not guilty.

Judge: Are you taking the mick? This attitude isn’t going to help your defence, you know. Very well, we move to trial . . . after a quick word from our sponsors . . . We’re back with the trial of Saddam, brought to you by Halliburton and Budweiser, official beer of the prosecuting team.

Defence: Judge, I must protest about the lack of information available to us. We do not know the identities of prosecution witnesses. In preparing our case, we might wish to visit them.

Judge: That’s what we’re afraid of.

Defence: I have a list of those we will call as witnesses – Dick Cheney, Jacques Chirac, Donald Rumsfeld.

Judge: Just give me a minute while I seek legal advice. (picks up phone) Hello, get me US central command. Hello, General Abizaid? He wants to call Cheney, Rumsfeld and Chirac. Right, I see, thank you. (turns to defence counsel) Well I’ve taken legal advice and you can’t have them.

Defence: Next, I want to submit 140 death warrants for the executions in Dujail, signed by my client, which show due process was observed.

Judge: Warrants signed by him?

Defence: Yes.

Judge: On evidence compiled on his orders?

Defence: Apparently it was clear-cut.

Judge: Anything else?

Defence: He is very unhappy about the televising of proceedings.

Judge: We’ve already sold the rights

Defence: He feels the 20-minute delay in the feed may be used to edit out his remarks about US complicity in his actions.

Judge: Well, I’m sorry for that break in transmission, viewers. You didn’t miss anything important.

Defence: My client also protests that he is charged with this offence rather than for one of his grander schemes, say the gassing of Kurds in Hallabja.

Judge: Is he admitting to that?

Defence: No. He just feels it has more elan, the kind of charge a former dictator should face; not these nickel-and-dime massacres, which frankly anyone could have done.

Judge: If that’s everything, can we move to the verdict and string him up? You can’t think he’s innocent.

Defence: That’s not the point.

Judge: Look, no one cares. Why string it out? (pause) Oh OK; usher, tell the executioner he can go home for the day.

And here’s to you

Sir Gerry Robinson’s bid to take charge at Rentokil may be faltering, but he has a new target.

Sunday: The Tory leadership contest was blown open when Sir Gerry Robinson declared himself the man to modernise the underperforming party. All he asks in return is the chance to serve and £76m to his bid vehicle, Steptoe. He is already backed by the party’s largest donor. His manifesto is light on detail but includes plans to bribe taxpayers with their own money and a promise that, with some of his stardust, all would be well. He also pledged to “show them who’s boss” and “sort things out PDQ”.

Monday: As his campaign lost momentum, Sir Gerry said he had agreed new performance criteria for the job, but was not prepared to say what they were at this stage.

Tuesday: Rumours swept Whitehall that Sir Gerry might not stand after all, but was now considering other leadership bids including UKIP, Veritas and the Liberal Democrats.

Refuted truths

Statement from the DTI: Clarification. On Sunday, the secretary of state, Alan Johnson, said the case for raising the public sector pension age to 65 was “irrefutable”. After constructive talks with our friends, the public sector unions threatening an all-out strike, it turns out that the case is in fact eminently refutable as long as we are in power.

robert.shrimsley@ft.com

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