Consider the courage it took for the chief prosecutor in Saddam Hussein's genocide trial in Baghdad to call for the presiding judge to step down, accusing the jurist of being biased in favor of the deposed dictator and his co-defendants.
"You allowed this court to become a political podium for the defendants," said prosecutor Munqith al-Faroon to judge Abdullah al-Amiri.
The Iraqi government apparently agreed with al-Faroon and, about a week later, removed him from the case, but the attorney had no way of predicting that action when he made his initial comments.
Saddam had gone on a tirade against "agents of Iran and Zionism" and vowed to "crush your heads" after he and his associates had listened to Kurdish witnesses relate the horrors that resulted from Saddam's regime.
Prosecutor al-Faroon declared that the judge had been giving Saddam the time to make "political" statements irrelevant to the proceedings. "For instance, yesterday, instead of taking legal action (against Saddam)," he told the judge, "you asked his permission to talk. The action of the court leans toward the defendants."
In view of the violence that has befallen so many people involved in the Saddam Hussein trial, the prosecutor's comments had to be strongly considered and measured. He obviously was frustrated by a court he felt was leaning in Saddam's favor. He knew, however, that there are risks in speaking out.
At the same time, what were the fears and the leanings of the judge? Did he, too, fear retaliation? And from whom? In the volatile and uncertain climate that exists in Iraq, the avenues are countless for various individuals and groups to take deadly revenge on people with whom they disagree.
Thus it took considerable courage for al-Faroon to speak out so openly and forcefully to protest the judge's actions. From the outset, Saddam has tried to make the proceeding a personal circus. The Baghdad judge seemed in danger of following the same path as Judge Lance Ito who lost control of the celebrated O.J. Simpson murder trial in America.
But why are we surprised? We knew from the outset that Saddam Hussein would use every means to disrupt the proceedings calling him to account for his acts of murder and mayhem.