BAGHDAD, Iraq, (AP) – A somber Saddam Hussein called on Iraqis to forgive each other Tuesday, when he returned to court two days after being sentenced to death for crimes against humanity in another case.
Saddam, speaking to the court in the afternoon session, cited references to the Prophet Muhammad and Jesus who had asked for forgiveness for those who opposed them.
“I call on all Iraqis, Arabs and Kurds, to forgive, reconcile and shake hands,” Saddam said after respectfully challenging one witness’ testimony.
The ex-president, who was wearing a black suit with a white shirt, appeared subdued during the proceeding, where he and six other defendants are on trial for the Operation Anfal crackdown against Iraqi Kurds in the late 1980s.
Saddam showed none of the bravado of Sunday, when he shouted “Long live the people and death to their enemies!” as another court sentenced him to the gallows for the deaths of nearly 150 Shiite Muslims following a 1982 assassination attempt against him in the town of Dujail.
He and two others were sentenced to death by hanging. Four co-defendants received lesser sentences and one was acquitted.
Instead, he sat in stony silence Tuesday as Kurdish survivors told of being duped by promises of amnesty, only to watch their friends and family being shot by Iraqi government soldiers.
On Tuesday, the court called three witnesses who survived the Aug. 28, 1988, slaying of more than 30 Kurdish men who had surrendered after hearing of an amnesty offer.
The first witness, Qahar Khalil Mohammed, told the court that he and other men from his village turned themselves in after being promised that Saddam had issued an amnesty for them.
Instead, the 33 men were lined up at the bottom of a hill and soldiers opened fire on them.
“When they fired in our direction, we all fell to the ground,” he said.
Mohammed said he was wounded but survived.
“When I went back, I saw my father and two brothers had been killed, as well as 18 of my relatives,” he testified. He said an Iraqi medical officer used a broken bottle to clean his wound.
Another survivor, Abdul-Karim Nayif, repeated the false amnesty claim and submitted a video of a mass grave found near his village after the Kurds gained self-rule in 1991. The video showed numerous human remains.
The Anfal trial, which was adjourned until Wednesday, will continue while an appeal in the Dujail case is under way. The prosecution says about 180,000 Kurds, most of them civilians, were killed in the crackdown in 1987-88.
The chief prosecutor in the Dujail case said Monday that a nine-judge appeals panel was expected to rule on Saddam’s guilty verdict and death sentence by mid-January. That could set in motion a possible execution in February.
The Iranian government called for the death sentence on Saddam to be carried out, saying the former Iraqi dictator was a criminal who deserved to die.
“We hope the fair, correct and legal verdict against this criminal … is enforced,” government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham said Tuesday at a news conference.
Iran and Iraq waged a bitter eight-year war after Saddam invaded the country in 1980.
Shiites and Kurds, who suffered terribly under Saddam’s Sunni-dominated rule, have hailed the sentence as just.