Saddam's trial looks at execution orders
Published: Wednesday, March 1, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, February 28, 2006 at 8:22 p.m.
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Prosecutors presented documents Tuesday they said show Saddam Hussein approved executions of more than 140 Shiites in the 1980s, the most direct evidence yet against the former Iraqi leader in his four-month trial. Among those sentenced to hang was an 11-year-old boy.
The most significant document featured a signature said to be Saddam's on a court list of people to be executed, though it was not clear he was aware of their ages. The list on that particular document only had names.
About 50 of those sentenced died during interrogation, before they could go to the gallows. One man, his brother and two sons were executed by mistake, and Saddam allegedly ordered them declared "martyrs" to cover up the error.
When it was discovered that the 11-year-old and nine other juveniles were not executed but were still in prison years later, they were ordered killed and their bodies buried in secret - an order approved with a signature the prosecution said was that of the intelligence agency chief at the time, Barzan Ibrahim, who is Saddam's half brother and a co-defendant in the trial.
Saddam, Ibrahim and six other members of the former regime are on trial for torture, imprisonment and the killings of some 148 Shiites in a crackdown launched after a 1982 attempt to assassinate the former Iraqi leader in the town of Dujail. They face death by hanging if convicted.
Tuesday's session was one of the most orderly since the trial began in October. The defense team gave up on a boycott of the tribunal it began last month and attended the session, though chief judge Raouf Abdel-Rahman rejected their demand that he and chief prosecutor Jaafar al-Moussawi step down.
Saddam and the other defendants entered the court and took their seats silently - in sharp contrast with nearly every other session, which began with Saddam and Ibrahim shouting slogans or arguing with the judge.
Saddam and several other defendants have ended a hunger strike he and some co-defendants started Feb. 12, two days before the last trial session, defense lawyer Khamis al-Obeidi said Sunday.
After the two-hour session, Abdel-Rahman adjourned until Wednesday.
The defense team's participation appeared to vindicate the tough approach Abdel-Rahman has taken since taking over the tribunal in late January, replacing a chief judge who had been criticized for allowing Saddam's outbursts. In contrast, Abdel-Rahman has thrown out defendants for shouting and has pushed ahead with the proceedings even when the lawyers - and, at times, the defendants themselves - refused to attend.
One member of the defense team, Salih al-Armouti, dismissed the documents presented in court Tuesday.
"I am not casting doubt on them as much as I'm saying that I consider them to be void and useless. They cannot be proof of any action that puts legal responsibility on my client," he told Al-Arabiya television, though he would not elaborate.
In the first months of the trial, a series of Dujail residents testified that they were imprisoned and tortured following the assassination attempt and that their relatives were killed. Several women related how they were stripped naked, beaten or given electric shocks - one testifying that Ibrahim himself kicked her in the chest as she hung upside down.
But none could directly implicate Saddam in the crackdown. In the past three sessions, prosecutors have been presenting documents aimed at showing the former Iraqi leader was directly involved.
On Tuesday, chief prosecutor al-Moussawi displayed a series of documents detailing the executions, though the numbers and chronology were often confusing.
One of the documents was a June 14, 1984 ruling by the Revolutionary Court sentencing to death 148 people from Dujail. A presidential decree issued two days later approved the death sentences, with a signature that prosecutors said was Saddam's.
The sentences were passed after an "imaginary trial," al-Moussawi told the court.
"None of the defendants were brought to court. Their statements were never recorded," he said.
Prosecutors also displayed a March 1985 document listing the names and ordering the executions to be carried out, signed allegedly by Ibrahim. A March 23, 1985 Revolutionary Court document confirmed the executions took place that day.
As it turned out, not all 148 had gone to the gallows. It was discovered that two people on the list were released by mistake, and the Mukhabarat intelligence agency launched an investigation in 1987 to find out what happened.
According to a report by the investigation, those implementing the execution order in 1984 discovered that some of those on the list had already been "liquidated during interrogations." The remaining 96 were executed as ordered.
But because of the "shortness of time," officials did not read the names on the list carefully, and four detainees who were not on the list and previously had been ordered released were executed by mistake, according to the document. They were identified as a man named Mahdi Adel-Amir, two of his sons and his brother.
The report recommended that a Mukhabarat officer who accidentally failed to release the Abdel-Amirs be disciplined with a prison sentence. A handwritten note that the prosecution said was Saddam's signature approved the recommendation. A later document said he was sentenced to three years in prison.
The report also recommended that a decree be issued to declare the Abdel-Amirs "martyrs" and return to their families properties that were stripped from relatives of the Dujail suspects. A note by Saddam's secretary said Saddam approved that recommendation as well.
A later Mukhabarat document showed that 10 juveniles thought to have been among the 96 executed - aged 11 to 17 at the time of sentencing - had instead been sent to a desert prison outside the southern city of Samawah.
The memo recommended executing the 10 in secret. A handwritten note in the margin of the memo, signed with what the prosecution said was Ibrahim's signature, approved the secret execution and recommended that Mukhabarat agents bury the bodies "so that the (Baghdad) municipality not find out."
"If we can guarantee this is carried out properly, then there is no objection," the note said. They were executed in 1989, other documents showed.
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