BAGHDAD, (Reuters) – Saddam Hussein, already condemned to hang, listened quietly in court on Monday as witnesses recalled mass shootings and water torture during a campaign that prosecutors say was genocide against the Kurds.
Two men now living in the United States gave evidence after a three-week break in the ousted Iraqi president’s second trial. He was sentenced to death on Nov. 5 for crimes against humanity in the first of a dozen or more cases against him.
Yunis Haji, who was a 20-year-old Peshmerga fighter at the time of the 1988 Anfal — Spoils of War — campaign against ethnic Kurds, said Iraqi soldiers tortured him for three days. “We were made to walk barefoot on broken glass,” Haji told the court. “We were tied on a table and they used to drop cold water, drop by drop on our forehead. “Every drop used to be like a mountain crashing on my head.”
Saddam sat quietly throughout the session, often taking notes as witnesses spoke.
Taimor Abdallah Rokhzai from Washington D.C. said he was 12 when he and other villagers were taken out into the desert and lined up in front of a trench and fired on by soldiers. “I saw bullets hitting a woman’s head and her brain coming out. I saw the pregnant woman shot and killed,” he said.
Rokhzai’s mother and sister and dozens of others fell dead or dying into the trench. Hit in the shoulder, so did he. “Suddenly it stopped and it was quiet. I was waiting to die and my whole body was covered with blood, and the soldiers went away,” he said. He clambered out and fled across an area that was dotted with similar pits full of bodies.
The adolescent was taken in by a family in the desert before eventually returning to the Kurdish north. “When the Iraqi intelligence forces came to know that I was the only witness to have seen that massacre they sent people to kill me,” he said.
Prosecutors say the Anfal campaign included widespread use of chemical weapons, killed more than 180,000 people and destroyed hundreds of villages. Saddam and his cousin Ali Hassan al-Majeed — or “Chemical Ali” — face the most serious charge of genocide. Five other commanders face lesser charge.
The trial’s chief prosecutor Munqith al-Faroon told Reuters on Sunday that he had an audiotape and documents proving Saddam himself ordered the gassing in northern Iraq.
Some lawyers in the defence team were present in the session, but Saddam’s chief lawyer Khalil al-Dulaimi was absent. The defence has boycotted recent sessions in this trial. The trial was adjourned until Tuesday.