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One of Saddam's Trials Resumes This Week


Saddam Hussein's stormy trial on genocide charges resumes Monday, more than a week after he and his co-defendants were expelled from the courtroom. A separate case on mass murder charges re-convenes the following week, but an expected verdict has been delayed.

Saddam Hussein's genocide trial was adjourned last week, after the judge ejected the former Iraqi leader from the courtroom, and his legal defense team boycotted the court session.

It was the third time Saddam had been ordered out of the courtroom in three sessions of the genocide trial, which began in August. In that trial, Saddam and six co-defendants are charged for their alleged roles in a crackdown against Kurds in northern Iraq in the late 1980s.

Before his expulsion in the last session, Saddam angrily complained about court procedures, what he says is a lack of justice, and disparaged Kurdish fighters, called Peshmerga.

Chief Judge Mohammed Oreibi repeatedly ordered Saddam to sit down, and finally threw him out of the court.

The proceedings in the Baghdad courtroom have been contentious since Iraq's government removed the previous chief judge, (Abdullah al-Amiri) for alleged favoritism toward the defendants.

If convicted, Saddam and six former subordinates could hang for their roles in the deaths of an estimated 180-thousand Kurds in 1988, including thousands who perished in poison gas attacks.

Saddam and his cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid, called "Chemical Ali" by Iraqis, face genocide charges. Five others face charges of mass murder and crimes against humanity.

A lawyer who represents many of the victims of the so-called Anfal campaign says it is painful for them to recount those brutal events.

Attorney Jiyan Azizz Bapier says she sometimes has to fight back tears, as women give evidence of rapes and killings in court testimony. She calls the events of the Anfal campaign a deep wound felt by Kurds.

She is sure Saddam is guilty and vows to prove it. She, too, lost family members in the attacks, which destroyed more than 4,000 Kurdish villages.

The director of the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch, Richard Dicker, says, to win this case, prosecutors must prove that the accused attacked the victims because of their ethnicity or religion. "That's hard to prove. To gain a conviction the prosecutor will have to make that case before the judges beyond a reasonable doubt," he said.

Human Rights Watch helped gather evidence against Saddam, and has been monitoring his trials in Baghdad closely.

In the other trial, Saddam faces charges he ordered the murder of 148 Shi'ites in the town of Dujail in 1982, after an apparent assassination attempt against him. That trial is in recess until October 16.

An expected verdict has been delayed, and court officials say judges will be reviewing evidence, and considering whether to recall some witnesses. It is not clear when a verdict might be issued.

Saddam and his co-defendants could face execution in this case, as well, if they are found guilty.

On Thursday, former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, who serves on Saddam's defense team, warned that a death sentence could fuel violence in Iraq.

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