BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) – A woman witness, testifying Tuesday from behind a screen and her voice disguised to protect her identity, told of beatings and abuse at the hands of Saddam Hussein”s agents in the trial of the former president and seven lieutenants.
Saddam sat stone-faced as the woman, known only as "Witness A," testified how she was taken into custody after the 1982 assassination attempt against Saddam in the town of Dujail.
Wadah al-Sheik, an Iraqi intelligence officer who died of cancer last month, ordered her to take off her clothes, she said, testifying from behind a light blue cloth curtain.
"Then he fired a shot at the wall and I thought it is real. But it turned to be sound bullet. I was forced to take off my clothes, and he raised my legs up and tied up my hands. He continued administering electric shocks and beating me," she said.
Chief Judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin told the court that defense attorneys would be told the identity of the witness but they must not pass them to anyone outside the tribunal.
Witnesses have the option of not having their identities revealed as a security measure to protect them against reprisals by Saddam loyalists. The first two witnesses, both males who took the stand Monday, allowed their names to be announced and their pictures to be transmitted around the world.
When the witness began to speak, defense attorneys complained they could not hear her because her voice was being distorted to protect her identity. The judge then ordered the voice modulator to be shut off — allowing defense counsel to hear her natural voice.
But people in the visitors” gallery and the press viewing area could not her any of her testimony.
The judge ordered a brief recess during which the equipment was repaired and the woman began testifying.
The witness said she was 16 at the time of the Dujail incidemt. She broke down and cried several times during her testimony, strongly suggsting that she had been raped although she did not say so outright.
When the judge later asked her about the "assault," she said "I was beaten up and tortured by electrical shocks." However, she repeated that she had been ordered to undress.
"I begged them, but they hit with their pistols," she said. "They made me put my legs up. There were five or more and they treated me like a banquet. Is that what happens to the virtuous woman that Saddam speaks about?"
The judge then advised her to stick to the facts.
She said she was thrown into a room with red walls and ceiling in an intelligence department building and that prisoners were given only bread and water to eat.
"I could not even eat because of the torture," she said. She said prisoners were later moved to Abu Ghraib prison where the toture continued.