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Saddam Back in Court for Genocide Trial


Saddam Hussein called for Iraqis to forgive each other when he returned to court for a genocide trial two days after another panel of judges had condemned him to death for crimes against humanity. He still is being tried for the brutal repression of Iraqi Kurds in the late 1980s.

Dressed in his now familiar black suit and white shirt, Saddam sat in silence as a series of witnesses described the alleged atrocities during the so-called Anfal campaign that prosecutors say killed more than 180,000 Iraqi Kurds in 1987 and '88.

The day's first witness, Qahar Khalil Mohammed, testified that he and other men from his village surrendered to Iraqi soldiers after being told Saddam had granted them amnesty. Instead, he said, the soldiers lined them up and opened fire.

He tells the court that despite being shot twice, once in the head and once in the back, he managed to survive the attack. He testified 33 people from his village died.

After a midday break, the trial resumed and Saddam made an unexpected courtroom plea for national peace and reconciliation.

A particularly somber faced Saddam called for all Iraqis, including both Arabs and Kurds, to forgive one another and, in his words, "forget the past and shake hands."

The Anfal trial continues despite speculation that Saddam may be executed long before a final verdict can be rendered.

A ruling on the sentence is expected from a nine-member appellate court as early as next month, and if it is upheld, the former Iraqi dictator would be executed within 30 days.

Meanwhile, Iraq's Interior Ministry has accused more than 50 employees, including several high-ranking officials of serious human rights violations. A ministry spokesman told reporters the men are accused of torturing hundreds of prisoners at a detention center in eastern Baghdad.

Iraq's Shi'ite dominated security force has long been accused of abusing Sunni detainees and operating suspected torture chambers in several makeshift prisons. The cases have been forwarded to an Iraqi court for possible indictments.

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