BAGHDAD, Iraq,AP – Saddam Hussein’s half-brother, former intelligence chief Barzan Ibrahim, denied he took part in a crackdown against Shiites in the 1980s as he testified Wednesday for the first time in the trial of the former Iraqi leader and members of his regime.
Ibrahim is the latest of the eight defendants in the trial to undergo direct questioning by the judge and chief prosecutor. Saddam was expected to testify later Wednesday.
The former Iraqi leader and his regime officials are charged with killing 148 Shiites and imprisoning and torturing hundreds of others after an attempt on Saddam’s life in their village of Dujail in 1982. They face possible execution by hanging if convicted.
In previous sessions, Dujail residents have testified that Ibrahim took part in torturing them during their confinement at the Baghdad headquarters of the Mukhabarat intelligence agency, which Ibrahim headed. One woman claimed Ibrahim kicked her in the chest while she was hanging upside-down and naked.
Ibrahim, wearing a traditional red scarf on his head, told chief judge Raouf Abdel-Rahman that he was in Dujail on the day of the July 8, 1982 shooting attack on Saddam’s motorcade and the following day but has not visited the Shiite village since then.
He said the General Security agency handled the investigation into the shooting, not Mukhabarat. He claimed he ordered the release of Dujail residents who had been detained. “I chided the security and party officials for detaining those people,” he said “I shook their (the released detainees’) hands and let them go.”
“I didn’t order any detentions. I didn’t interrogate anyone,” he said, adding that he resigned from his post as head of the Mukhabarat in August 1983.
Reading from a statement, Ibrahim said Saddam’s regime had a right to respond after the Iraqi leader came under attack “from a group supported by Iran at a time when Iraq was at war with Iran,” a reference to the Tehran-backed Shiite Dawa Party that carried out the shooting.
He praised Saddam, saying he “served this country for 25 years and achieved historic accomplishments.”
Ibrahim also complained that he was badly treated after his arrest by U.S. forces in April 2003. He also said he has asked for the past two years for medical tests “but no one has listened to me.”
Ibrahim has made such statements previously in court but the testimony is the first opportunity for the judge and prosecutors to directly question him. Earlier this week, six other defendants went through similar questioning, one by one, and all insisted on their innocence.
One of the defendants, Awad al-Bandar — the former chief judge of the Revolutionary Court — admitted on Monday that he sentenced the 148 Shiites to death but maintained they received a fair trial and had confessed to trying to assassinate the former Iraqi leader.
His comments echoed those of Saddam in an earlier session. Last month, Saddam admitted in court that he ordered the 148 Shiites put on trial before his Revolutionary Court, but said it was his right to do so because they were suspected of trying to kill him.
Prosecutors are trying to show Saddam’s regime sought to punish the town’s civilian population. Hundreds of people were arrested — including entire families, with women and young children — and detained for years.
They argue the Revolutionary Court trial was “imaginary,” with no chance of defense, and have produced documents showing 10 juveniles — including some as young as 11 and 13 — were among those sentenced to death.