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Archive for Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Saddam’s genocide trial resumes

October 10, 2006

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— The genocide trial of Saddam Hussein resumed Monday with testimony that his troops buried prisoners alive and abused female prisoners by shackling them for hours in the sun and firing over their heads as they bathed.

Saddam and his six co-defendants are on trial for offenses allegedly committed against Iraqi Kurds during a crackdown in the late 1980s. If convicted, the defendants could be sentenced to death by hanging.

One woman, who testified behind a curtain and whose name was withheld apparently for fear of reprisal, told the court she was 13 years old when she was detained during the crackdown.

The woman said Iraqi troops destroyed her village in northern Iraq in 1988 and that she and some family members were imprisoned in southern Iraq.

A prison warden she identified as Hajaj "used to drag women, their hands and feet shackled, and leave them in scorching sun for several hours," she told the court.

"Soldiers used to watch us bathe," she added, saying the guards would also fire weapons over the women's heads as they washed.

The woman said several relatives disappeared during the offensive. "I know the fate of my family (members). They were buried alive," she testified.

The prosecution presented the court with documents showing that remains of the women's relatives turned up in a mass grave.

Saddam and his cousin, "Chemical" Ali Hassan al-Majid, are facing charges of genocide in the trial. Five others on trial face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Saddam has insisted that the crackdown, known as Operation Anfal, was directed against Kurdish rebels who were allied with Iran in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war. But the prosecution maintains that about 180,000 people, most of them civilians, were killed in the crackdown, during which Iraq forces used poison gas against Kurdish villages.

The ex-president and seven co-defendants are awaiting a verdict in another trial - for the deaths of 148 Shiite Muslims following an assassination attempt against him in 1982 in the town of Dujail.

That verdict is not expected before the end of the month.

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