BAGHDAD, Iraq – Saddam Hussein said in a defiant courtroom confession Wednesday that he ordered the trial of 148 Shiites who were later executed, and arranged for the flattening of their palm groves and farms. But he insisted he had the right to do so because they were suspected of trying to kill him. “Where is the crime? Where is the crime?” Saddam asked. “If trying a suspect accused of shooting at a head of state – no matter what his name is – is considered a crime, then you have the head of state in your hands. Try him.” The dramatic speech came a day after prosecutors presented the most direct evidence against him in the four-month trial: a 1984 presidential decree approving the death sentences for the 148, with a signature said to be Saddam’s. Saddam did not admit or deny approving their executions, but stated outright that he was solely responsible for their prosecution, adding that his seven co-defendants should be released. The five judges will be able to take Saddam’s confession into account when they rule in the case. It will be up to them to decide whether Saddam’s actions were illegal, since there is no jury. After Wednesday’s session, the trial was adjourned to March 12. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECasino Insider: Here’s a look at San Manuel’s new high limit rooms, Asian restaurant “If the chief figure makes things easy for you by saying he was the one responsible, then why are you going after these people?” he said. The deaths of the Shiites are one of the main charges against the defendants, who could face execution by hanging – the same fate as most of the 148 – if convicted. They are on trial also for torture and imprisonment of the Shiites, as well as the razing of their farmlands, in a crackdown launched after a July 8, 1982, assassination attempt against Saddam in the town of Dujail. The prosecution has argued that the imprisonment and executions were illegal, saying the 148 were sentenced to death in an “imaginary trial” before Saddam’s Revolutionary Court where the defendants did not even appear. The crackdown, they argue, went far beyond the actual attackers. They have presented documents that show entire families – including women and children as young as 3 months old – were arrested, tortured and held for years. Those executed included at least 10 juveniles, one as young as 11, according to the documents.