Saddam's genocide trial starts off smoothly

Saddam's genocide trial starts off smoothly
August 24th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: Saddam's genocide trial starts off smoothly

Saddam's genocide trial starts off smoothly
Media: AFP
Byline:Jay Deshmukh
Date: 24 August 2006

BAGHDAD, Aug 24, 2006 (AFP) - The first three days of Saddam Hussein's trial
for genocide went smoothly, as witnesses testified fearlessly against a
fairly placid former Iraqi ruler noted for his outbursts in a previous

Saddam, along with six other top former regime officials, including the
feared Ali Hassan al-Majid, nicknamed "Chemical Ali", was in the dock on
Monday for charges of slaughtering 182,000 Kurds in the late 1980s.

Saddam and Ali are charged with genocide, crimes against humanity and war
crimes for masterminding chemical attacks against the Kurds in 1987-1988
during the bloody Anfal campaign. The five others do not face the genocide

The much-awaited and the most crucial trial of Saddam sees top regime
officials in the dock unlike some of the defendants in the previous Dujail
case, who had been low-level members of Saddam's ruling Baath.

The Anfal trial has started off calmly, while the Dujail case was marred by
angry outbursts, walkouts, hunger-strikes by the defendants and the murder
of three defence lawyers.

The most visible difference in the Anfal trial so far has been the
fearlessness shown by the six witnesses who have boldy testified against the
former strongman on camera, rather than the dozens of testimonies in the
previous case from behind a curtain in the witness-box.

"Whether to reveal themselves or not during the testimony is the prerogative
of the witnesses, and the Kurdish witnesses have revealed themselves as the
security situation in Kurdistan is better than rest of Iraq," said a US
official who is advising the Iraqi High Tribunal trying the regime

So far, four women and two men have testified, accusing the defendants of
carrying out chemical attacks against their families and villagers in

In the Dujail trial, in which Saddam and seven others were charged with the
mass murder of 148 Shiites, the Shiite witnesses preferred to remain
concealed fearing Sunni insurgents loyal to the former dictator.

The verdict in that trial, now ended, is expected on October 16.

New York-based Human Rights Watch criticised the anonymous nature of
testimony in the Dujail trial, citing lack of transparency in the

On a number of occasions during that trial, Kurdish chief judge Rauf Abdel
Rahman became exasperated and resorted to aggressive steps to control the
outbursts of Saddam and his half-brother, Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti.

"The single most important factor for a peaceful start to the Anfal trial
has been the absence of a defendant such as Barzan," said the US official.

A number of times, Barzan was thrown out of the courtroom after his
theatrical outbursts.

"Every word he utters is like a poisoned knife directed against me," Rahman
once said in court after a lengthy verbal exchange with Barzan, who referred
to him as a "Kurd" and once called the court "daughter of a *****."

Barzan was also physically ejected from court during a heated row with
Rahman after he called the judge a "dictator".

Even Saddam engaged in outbursts, often accusing US soldiers of "forcing"
him to attend the trial.

Slogans such as "Down with the traitors, down with Bush" often reverberated
in the courtroom as Saddam began one of his routine boycotts of the

The first three days of the present trial, however, saw a rather mellowed
Saddam. He flashed his legendary temper just once when the lead prosecutor
accused his forces of raping Kurdish women during the Anfal campaign.

Threatening prosecutor Munqith al-Faroon, Saddam thundered: "If he says that
a Iraqi woman was raped in my era and if he does not prove it, I will hunt
him for the rest of my life."

He went on to defend his forces saying how he publicly hanged an Iraqi
soldier for raping a Kuwaiti woman during his regime's occupation of Kuwait.

The other noticeable change has been the softness shown by the Shiite chief
judge Abdullah al-Ameri towards the defendants as well as their lawyers.

On Wednesday Ameri adjourned the trial until September 11 after a request
from the defence team who cited "security concerns and lack of time for
other trials."

On many occasions Ameri was seen asking the defendants, especially Chemical
Ali, if he needed "a break", a gesture unseen from Rahman, who was
criticized by Human Rights Watch of being "pro-prosecution."

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