Saddam Hussein called his trial judges homosexuals yesterday in a further tirade at the Baghdad court where he is accused of mass murder.

The former Iraqi leader wanted to boycott the hearing but the chief judge ordered him to attend.

Mr Hussein protested shouting, “Down with Bush!” as he walked into the Baghdad court.

He asked chief judge Raouf Abdel-Rahman: “Why have you brought us with force? Your authority gives you the right to try a defendant in absentia.”

“Are you trying to overcome your own smallness?”

The judge replied: “The law will be implemented.” The defendant then said: “Degradation and shame upon you, Raouf!” He later called the investigating judges homosexuals.

In an added gesture of defiance, Saddam swapped his usual suit for more traditional Arab garments and carpet slippers.

The most senior of his seven co-defendants, former intelligence chief Barzan al-Tikriti, turned up wearing long johns. Mr Barzan had to be forced into the room and spent most of the hearing sitting on the floor with his back to the judges.

Defence lawyers in the case are refusing to take part in the hearing because they claim Judge Abdel-Rahman is biased and the accused object to having to appear without them.

Saddam Hussein and the others deny the revenge killings of 148 people in the northern Iraqi village of Dujail after a failed bid to assassinate the dictator there in 1982.

All face the death penalty if convicted. After his outburst yesterday, the court heard statements from a string of Dujail villagers who claimed they were arrested and tortured.

The trial continues today.