BAGHDAD, (Reuters) – A former Kurdish guerrilla fighter removed his shirt in a marbled Baghdad courtroom on Tuesday to show what he said were scars caused by a chemical attack ordered by Saddam Hussein in the 1980s.
Iskandar Mahmoud Abdul-Rahman told Saddam’s trial for genocide against ethnic Kurds how he and other comrades from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan were gassed after fleeing to a village in Iraq’s northern Kurdistan region.
“I began vomiting and I was dizzy, my eyes burnt and I couldn’t stand,” said Abdul-Rahman, a bespectacled and clean-shaven man wearing a grey suit.
“I regained consciousness after 10 days and saw my body had been burnt completely. The doctors were giving me injections and medication including eye drops frequently. They cut the burnt skin with scissors. I can show the court my scars that are still visible on my body,” he said.
After the judged agreed, the witness took off his blue shirt, showing several scars on his back, roughly 20 centimetres (8 inches) long.
Saddam, his cousin Ali Hassan al-Majeed, known as “Chemical Ali”, and five others face war crimes and crimes against humanity for the 1988 Anfal campaign or Spoils of War.
Saddam and Majeed also face the graver charges of genocide. If found guilty all men face death by hanging.
More than 20 witnesses have so far taken the stand, mostly Kurdish villagers describing the destruction caused by Anfal.
On Monday, another former Kurdish guerrilla took off dark glasses in court to show the swollen lids of his eyes, which he said were permanently damaged by nerve poison that completely blinded him for six months.
Prosecutors say more than 180,000 people died in the campaign and thousands of villages were destroyed, some gassed.
Saddam has defended his Sunni-led government’s policy of attacking Kurdish militias fighting alongside Shi’ite Iran against Iraq during the last phases of the Iraq-Iran war as striking legitimate military targets.
Saddam is also awaiting a verdict in another case, for the deaths of Shi’ite villagers killed after a failed attempt on his life in 1982. The Anfal trial does not cover the most notorious use of chemical weapons, against the village of Halabja, which is to be covered by a separate trial.