BAGHDAD, (Reuters) – The trial of six former Iraqi officials accused of trying to wipe out ethnic Kurds resumed in Baghdad on Monday with the chair once occupied by Saddam Hussein in court empty.
Nine days after Saddam was hanged for crimes against humanity for killing Shi’ites, the former president’s cousin, “Chemical Ali” Hassan al-Majeed, and five other Baath party officials were back in the dock.
Judge Mohammed al-Ureybi, in his first order of business, formally dropped charges of genocide and crimes against humanity against Saddam. He cut off the microphones when Majeed stood up and started to read the Koran in tribute to his former chief. “In virtue of the confirmation of the death of defendant Saddam Hussein, the court decided to finally stop legal procedures against defendant Saddam Hussein according to the Iraqi Penal Procedures Law,” Ureybi told the court.
Looking tired and sporting an unusual white stubble, Majeed refused to take his chair and insisted on reading a line from the Koran as he stood behind Saddam’s empty chair. “Make him sit down, make him sit down,” Ureybi ordered the bailiffs.
Many Kurds regret the chief suspect can no longer face justice for his role in the Anfal campaign against them, thanks to an earlier trial for killing 148 Shi’ites in the 1980s, but they hope others share his fate on the gallows.
Majeed, who faces genocide charges, is considered the main enforcer of Anfal, or Spoils of War, a 1988 military campaign against ethnic Kurds in which prosecutors say 180,000 people were killed, many of them gassed. “Saddam is dead but the ‘hero’ of the Anfal operation is still alive,” said Abdul Ghani Yahya, a man in his 60s in the northern Iraqi city of Arbil.
Prosecutors presented documents they said linked Majeed and other defendants to Anfal.