Saddam: 'I Am Not Afraid of Execution'

12-5-05 - Saddam Hussein said Monday he was not afraid of execution and angrily dismissed charges against him at his trial in which a tearful witness recalled the torture of his relatives and seeing a machine that "looked like a grinder" with hair and blood on it.

Saddam's trial on charges that he and seven co-defendants killed more than 140 Shiites from the village of Dujail in the summer of 1982 after a failed assassination attempt was punctuated by outbursts by the former president, as well as a brief walkout by his defense lawyers.

At one point, Saddam appeared to threaten the judge, saying: "When the revolution of the heroic Iraq arrives, you will be held accountable."

Chief Judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin replied: "This is an insult to the court. We are searching for the truth."

Earlier, however, Saddam told the court he understood the pressures upon the judges and defended his actions. He and his seven co-defendants could be executed if convicted on the charges stemming from the deaths of more than 140 Shiites in 1982.

Before the third session of the trial adjourned until Tuesday, Saddam repeatedly interrupted testimony and appeared to try to rally Iraqis against the U.S. occupation.

"This game must not continue, if you want Saddam Hussein's neck, you can have it!" Saddam said. "I have exercised my constitutional prerogatives after I had been the target of an armed attack.

"I am not afraid of execution," said Saddam, who then addressed the judge, saying, "I realize there is pressure on you and I regret that I have to confront one of my sons. But I'm not doing it for myself. I'm doing it for Iraq. I'm not defending myself. But I am defending you."

When the first witness Ahmed Hassan Mohammed spoke, Saddam told him: "Do not interrupt me, son."

"If it's ever established that Saddam Hussein laid a hand on any Iraqi, then everything that witness said is correct," he said.

He also told the court that he "would like (the witness) to be examined by an independent medical institution."

Amin had a difficult time keeping order during several clashes between the witnesses and the accused, with Saddam and his co-defendant and half brother, Barazan Ibrahim, gesturing and shouting together. In one instance, Saddam pointed to the sky with his right hand while he held Islam's holy book, the Quran, in his left.

"Everyone must remain calm and be civil," he said repeatedly.

At one point, Saddam and Ibrahim became so angry while Saddam sparred verbally with the judge and a second witness, Jawad Abdul-Azziz Jawad, that guards tried to calm them. Ibrahim smacked them on the hands with a notebook.

Saddam himself became so angry that he threw some papers he was holding, and they eventually landed on the floor.

Earlier, former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, who is helping represent Saddam, sought to address the court, touching off an argument that led to the walkout by the defense team.

Amin at first said only Saddam's chief lawyer, Khalil al-Dulaimi, could speak. Amin said the defense should submit its motion in writing and warned that if the defense walked out then the court would appoint replacement lawyers.

After the defense lawyers left, Saddam, shaking his right hand, told the judge: "You are imposing lawyers on us. They are imposed lawyers. The court is imposed by itself. We reject that."

Saddam and Ibrahim then chanted "Long live Iraq, long live the Arab state."

Ibrahim stood up and shouted: "Why don't you just execute us and get rid of all of this!"

When the judge explained that he was ruling in accordance with the law, Saddam replied: "This is a law made by America and does not reflect Iraqi sovereignty."

After the lawyers spoke, Mohammed began his emotional but often rambling testimony. He said that after an assassination attempt on Saddam, security agencies took people of all ages, from 14 to more than 70. They were tortured for 70 days at intelligence headquarters in Baghdad before being moved to Abu Ghraib prison where the abuse continued, he said.

He said his brother, who was at 17 at the time, was tortured while his 77-year-old father watched.

Mohammed, who was 15 at the time, said he himself was tortured. "They blindfolded me, but I was so young, it kept falling."

In one of the facilities, he saw "a machine that looked like a grinder and had some blood and hair" on it.

"There were mass arrests. Women and men. Even if a child was 1-day-old, they used to tell his parents, 'Bring him with you,'" Mohammed said. He said he was taken to a security center where "I saw bodies of people from Dujail."

"They were martyrs I knew," Mohammed said, giving the names of nine victims.

The second witness, Jawad, who was only 10 when the assassination attempt occurred, testified how Iraqi troops used helicopters to attack the city and bulldozers to destroy the fields.

Jawad said Saddam's regime killed three of his brothers, one before the assassination attempt and two after.

When al-Dulaimi asked how someone who was 10 could remember such details, Jawad said "a 3-year-old child remembers a lot. An elementary school student does not forget if a teacher slapped him in the face. I live a catastrophe."

After the walkout and a 90-minute recess to resolve the issue, the court reconvened and Amin allowed Clark and ex-Qatari Justice Minister Najib al-Nueimi to speak on the questions of the legitimacy of the tribunal and safety of the lawyers.

"Reconciliation is essential," Clark told the court. "This trial can either divide or heal. And unless it is seen as absolutely fair, and as absolutely fair in fact, it will irreconcilably divide the people of Iraq."

At that point, the judge reminded Clark that he was to speak only about the security guarantees for the defense lawyers _ two of whom have been assassinated since the trial began Oct. 19.

Clark then said all parties were entitled to protection, and the measures offered to protect the defense and their families were "absurd." He said that without such protection, the judicial system would collapse.

Al-Nueimi then spoke about the legitimacy issue, arguing that court is not independent and was in fact set up under the U.S.-led occupation rather than by a legal Iraqi government. He said the language of the statute was unchanged from that promulgated by the former top U.S. administrator in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, and was therefore "illegitimate."

The first witness had exchanged insults with Ibrahim, Saddam's half brother, telling him "you killed a 14-year-old boy."

"To hell," Ibrahim replied.

"You and your children go to hell," the witness replied.

The judge then asked them to avoid such exchanges.

As the testimony continued, Saddam's lawyers objected that someone in the visitors' gallery was making threatening gestures and should be removed. Ibrahim leapt to his feet, spat in the direction of the gallery, and shouted, "These are criminals."

The judge ordered the person removed from the gallery and questioned.

Mohammed, fighting back tears, described how there had been "random arrests in the streets, all the forces of the (Baath) party, and Thursday became `Judgment Day' and Dujail has become a battle front."

"Shootings started and nobody could leave or enter Dujail. At night, intelligence agents arrived headed by Barazan" Ibrahim, he said.

Ibrahim interrupted him at one point, saying: "I am a patriot and I was the head of the intelligence service of Iraq."

At the start of Monday's session, Saddam walked into the court with a smile, carrying a copy of the Quran and greeted everyone there. Most of the defendants and several of the defense lawyers, including Clark, stood up out of respect when Saddam entered.