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THE CONFLICT IN IRAQ: HUSSEIN TRIAL EVIDENCE

Images of Kurdish deaths shown at Hussein's trial

Prosecutors say the graphic videos reveal the results of a chemical weapons campaign led by the former leader.

December 20, 2006|Molly Hennessy-Fiske | Times Staff Writer

BAGHDAD — The videos showed a man cradling a dead infant, bodies piled in the back of a truck, women and children weeping and telltale smoke rising from the hills.

Prosecutors presented the videos and other documents Tuesday at Saddam Hussein's genocide trial. Hussein and six codefendants are charged in connection with the Anfal military campaign against Kurdish villages in northern Iraq in the late 1980s. The operation included chemical weapon attacks.

The videos showed scenes of carnage in Kurdish villages in April 1987 and May 1988, both preceding and during the Anfal campaign designed to root out Kurdish resistance fighters known as peshmerga.

"Look at these dead children. These are the dead saboteurs and insurgents," lead prosecutor Munqith Faroon said, explaining that the videos were shot in areas attacked with chemical weapons.

Hussein and his codefendants watched passively. Later, they disputed the videos, as well as more than a dozen documents submitted as evidence detailing the military campaign, which is thought to have killed as many as 100,000 Kurds.

The evidence included once-secret military records showing death tolls from the chemical sarin and mustard gas, and a memo from Hussein's secretary saying a Dutch businessman had supplied the Iraqi government with "rare and banned chemical weapons." Frans van Anraat, the businessman, was convicted last year of complicity in war crimes for selling Iraq chemicals for poison gas and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Defendant Ali Hassan Majid, who earned the nickname Chemical Ali because of his purported sanctioning of the use of internationally banned chemical weapons, said some of the documents were forgeries. He said the videos did not show innocent civilians but allies of the Iranian-backed peshmerga.

"My country was threatened with occupation. Either I would let occupied forces drown Baghdad or I would defend Baghdad," said Majid, Hussein's cousin.

Another defendant, Sultan Hashim Ahmad Jabburi Tai, Hussein's former defense minister, said the Anfal campaign was justified.

"It was an honorable mission to fight the Iranian enemy," he said.

The trial is scheduled to continue this week, with prosecutors expected to submit evidence about the roles that each defendant allegedly played in the Anfal campaign.

Hussein was sentenced to death last month after being convicted of crimes against humanity in the killings of Shiite Muslim villagers from Dujayl after an assassination attempt against him in 1982.

Although Hussein is appealing his sentence, he could be executed before his second trial is completed.

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molly.hennessy-fiske@latimes.com

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