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Iraqi Prosecutors Show Memos Linking Saddam to Chemical Attacks

The tribunal trying former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein saw disturbing film footage of dead women and children as prosecutors argued Saddam and his regime had used chemical weapons against the Kurds of northern Iraq in the late 1980s. VOA's Margaret Besheer attended the day's proceedings in Baghdad and files this report.

For the second day, prosecutors submitted documentary evidence to the court linking Saddam and six of his former lieutenants to chemical attacks against Kurdish villagers between 1987 and 1988.

Lead prosecutor Munqith al-Faroon produced more than a dozen documents directing or stating the results of attacks against the Kurds. Most of the documents were stamped "top secret" and signed by some of Saddam's co-defendants.

The papers included memos directing Iraqi military commanders operating in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq to use "special weapons" against what the regime called "saboteurs" and "enemies." The prosecutor said the special weapons were mustard and sarin agents.

The documents covered periods in 1988 and many were signed by defendant Sabir al-Douri, then chief of Iraq's military intelligence. Speaking on his own behalf in court, al-Douri said he did not remember signing the documents and they were probably forgeries.

Saddam and his six co-defendants have pleaded innocent to charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for their roles in the operation, known as al-Anfal, in which an estimated 180,000 Kurds were killed. The defense has argued the regime was legitimately putting down an insurgency in which the Kurds were helping Iran, while it was at war with Iraq.

The court also saw a disturbing series of grainy films from April 1987 and May 1988 taken of Kurdish refugees fleeing white clouds of smoke and helicopters flying low over their mountain villages. The prosecution did not say where the films came from or who took them.

At one point, prosecutor al-Faroon pointed to a scene of a dead woman lying with her children in a field and said with sarcasm to the court, "this is who the defense calls saboteurs and insurgents." He said the victims were killed by "chemical attacks."

Several of the co-defendants spoke on their own behalf, but Saddam remained stoic throughout the proceedings, never uttering a word.