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2 Kurds Testify at Hussein's Trial

October 20, 2006|Louise Roug | Times Staff Writer

BAGHDAD — Despite the continued absence of the defense team from the courtroom, two Kurdish witnesses took the stand Thursday in the genocide trial against Saddam Hussein.

The pair testified about chemical attacks and prison abuse during a brutal military campaign against the Kurds in 1988, known as the Anfal, or "spoils of war."

Abdul Sayed Ahmed, a 77-year-old farmer, described an airborne chemical attack on his village and how, after being detained by soldiers, he had been starved during four months in prison.

"You are here to die," Ahmed said a prison official told him. He also testified that he buried 20 people with his own hands during his time at the prison and that 1,800 people had died at the detention center.

When asked by the judge about the specificity of the number, Ahmed answered that the prisoners kept secret records that they shared with one another after being released.

Most of those who died succumbed to starvation or thirst, he said.

The second witness, Bakr Kadir Mohammed, 72, told a similar story of a chemical attack on his village.

Mohammed said he fled to the mountains with his family but was later apprehended by Iraqi troops and put in prison. While there, he saw dogs eating the bodies of fellow inmates, he said.

Hussein and six codefendants, including his cousin Ali Hassan Majid, known as "Chemical Ali," face death by hanging if convicted.

Last month, defense attorneys walked out after the Iraqi government replaced the chief judge, who was deemed too sympathetic to the defendants. Some analysts decried the move as undue interference in the trial. Since then, Hussein and his codefendants have been represented by court-appointed attorneys.

A verdict in a separate case involving the killing of 148 Shiite villagers from Dujayl is expected Nov. 5.

The current trial was adjourned until Oct. 30.

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