Da International Herald Tribune del 05/04/2006
Originale su http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/04/05/africa/web.0405saddam.php

Saddam Hussein cross-examined in court for first time

BAGHDAD - Saddam Hussein was cross-examined for the first time in his six-month-old trial Wednesday, saying he approved death sentences against Shiites in the 1980s because he believed the evidence had proven they were involved in an assassination attempt against him.

Saddam, standing alone as the sole defendant in the courtroom, dodged some questions from prosecutors over his role in a crackdown against Shiites in the 1980s, giving long speeches calling the court "illegitimate." He accused the current Shiite-led Interior Ministry of killing and torturing thousands of Iraqis and bickered with chief judge Raouf Abdel-Rahman.

The session came a day after prosecutors indicted Saddam on separate charges of genocide, accusing him of trying to exterminate Kurds in a 1980s campaign that killed an estimated 100,000 people. The charges will be dealt with in a separate trial.

In the current trial, Saddam and seven former members of his regime are charged in a crackdown against Shiites launched after a 1982 assassination attempt against Saddam in the town of Dujail. In the sweep that followed, 148 Shiites were killed and hundreds were imprisoned, some of them undergoing torture.

Throughout Wednesday's questioning, Saddam - dressed in a black suit and white shirt - appeared relaxed, frequently shooting grins at chief prosecutor Moussa al-Jaafari and even reciting a short bit of poetry to the judge.

Al-Jaafari asked Saddam about his approval for death sentences passed against the 148 by his Revolutionary Court, which prosecutors have argued gave the Shiites only a cursory trial.

"That is one of the duties of the president," Saddam replied. "I had the right to question the judgment. But I was convinced the evidence that was presented was sufficient" to show their guilt in the assassination attempt.

In a previous court session, Saddam acknowledged ordering the trial in which the 148 Shiites were sentenced to death but has maintained his actions were legal because they were in response to the attempt to kill him.

Al-Jaafari displayed a series of documents that he has previously shown the court - including an approval of medals for intelligence agents involved in the crackdown and approvals for the razing of Dujail farmlands in retaliation for the assassination attempt. Al-Jaafari repeatedly asked if the signatures on the documents were Saddam's.

But Saddam, sometimes smiling at the prosecutor, avoided a direct reply, refusing to confirm the signatures but also stopping short of saying the signatures were forged.

"Any comment, matter or document signed by Saddam Hussein, and it has been proven that the handwriting and the signature are his, then I take the responsibility," he replied.

At the beginning of the session, Saddam launched into a speech in response to the prosecutor's first question, bringing repeated demands by Abdel-Rahman that he answer the question.

Saddam denounced the court as illegitimate, saying "a body whose base and formation is illegitimate and unjust can't pronounce justice. How could anyone imagine that it could issue a verdict on the Iraqi president, who stood as a sharp spear inside the eyes of those who planned and worked to poke Iraq's eyes?"

He demadned an international body examine signatures alleged to be his on documents the prosecution has presented concerning the crackdown. Some of Saddam's co-defendants have insisted signatures said to be theirs are forged.

"You should resort to an impartial, international body" and not a body "that kills thousands people on the streets and tortures them ...the Interior Ministry," Saddam told Abdel-Raouf, referring to the now Shiite-controlled ministry, which some Iraqis accuse of backing Shiite militias that have assassinated Sunni Arabs.

"Don't venture into political matters," Abdel-Raouf replied.

"If you are scared of the interior minister, he doesn't scare my dog," Saddam retorted.

Iraq has seen a wave of killings and attacks between Shiites and Sunnis since a Feb. 22 bombing of a Shiite shrine in the city of Samarra.

Saddam had been due to testify and be questioned in the last session of the trial, on March 15. But instead, he gave a rambling speech calling on Iraqis to stop sectarian violence and unite to fight American troops. After arguing with Saddam, Abdel-Rahman closed most of the session to the public to allow Saddam to finish his speech.

Saddam and the seven former members of his regime face possible execution by hanging if they are convicted in connection with the crackdown launched in Dujail following a July 8, 1982 shooting attack on Saddam's motorcade in the town.

Tuesday's indictment paves the way for a second trial of Saddam in which he would likely face execution if convicted, though prosecutors have not yet said what sentence they will seek.

He and six other former regime members will be tried for Operation Anfal, the 1988 military campaign launched in the final months of the war with Iran to crush independence-minded Kurdish militias and clear Kurds from the sensitive Iranian border area of northern Iraq.

A memo released by the tribunal Tuesday said the Anfal campaign included "savage military attacks on civilians," including "the use of mustard gas and nerve agents ... to kill and maim rural villagers and to drive them out of their homes."

Operations against the Kurds included the March 1988 gas attack on the village of Halabja in which 5,000 people, including women and children, died. However, court spokesman Raid Juhi told The Associated Press that the Halabja attack would be prosecuted separately and was not considered part of the charges filed Tuesday.

Others accused in the Anfal case include Saddam's cousin, Ali Hassan Majid, or "Chemical Ali"; former Defense Minister Sultan Hashim Ahmad; former intelligence chief Saber Abdul Aziz al-Douri; former Republican Guard commander Hussein al-Tikriti; former Nineveh provincial Gov. Taher Tafwiq al-Ani; and former top military commander Farhan Mutlaq al-Jubouri.

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