Archive for Wednesday, December 7, 2005

Witness in Saddam’s trial recounts sexual humiliation

December 7, 2005


— Waving a finger and pounding his desk, Saddam Hussein told the judges in his trial to "go to hell" and vowed not to return to court today.

The outburst came at the end of a daylong session Tuesday in which a woman, speaking behind a beige curtain and with her voice disguised, told of beatings, torture and sexual humiliation at the hands of security agents when she was a teenager.

The ousted Iraqi president sat stone-faced and silent while she spoke. But after hours of testimony from the woman and another two witnesses, he exploded with anger.

Saddam, dressed in a dark suit and white shirt and clutching a Quran, complained that he and the seven other defendants were tired and had been deprived of opportunities to shower, have a change of clothes, exercise or go for a smoke.

"This is terrorism," he declared.

Throughout the trial, which began Oct. 19, Saddam has repeatedly staged confrontations with the court and attempted to take control of the proceedings with dramatic rhetorical flourishes.

The defendants are charged in the deaths of more than 140 Shiite Muslims in retaliation for an assassination attempt against him in the town of Dujail in 1982. Saddam accused Iran of ordering the attempt on his life.

Five witnesses - two women and three men - testified Tuesday in the fourth session of the trial, all of them hidden from the public view and with their voices disguised to protect their identities.

The most compelling testimony came from the woman identified only as "Witness A," who was a 16-year-old girl at the time of the crackdown. Her voice breaking with emotion, she told the court of beatings and electric shocks by the former president's agents.

"I was forced to take off my clothes, and he raised my legs up and tied my hands. He continued administering electric shocks and whipping me and telling me to speak," Witness A said of Wadah al-Sheik, an Iraqi intelligence officer who died of cancer last month while in American custody.

The woman broke down several times as she struggled to maintain her composure. "God is great. Oh, my Lord!" she said, moaning.

Such treatment of a young woman is gravely offensive in traditional Arab culture, and Saddam was careful to avoid any insulting gesture in Tuesday's session, which was televised in Iraq. On Monday, he had angrily challenged male witnesses, insulting them and suggesting one needed psychiatric treatment.

"Witness A" strongly suggested she had been raped, but did not say so outright. When Chief Judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin asked her about the "assault," she said: "I was beaten up and tortured by electrical shocks" but repeated that she had been ordered to undress.

"They made me put my legs up. There were more than one of them, as if I were their banquet, maybe more than five people, all of them officers," she said.

"Is that what happens to the virtuous woman that Saddam speaks about?" she wept, prompting the judge to advise her to stick to the facts.

She later quoted a security officer as telling her, "You should thank your God because you are here in the Intelligence Center. If you were in the directorate of security, no woman would remain a virgin."

Nevertheless, she also said security guards raped many fellow female detainees.


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