In tape, Saddam's cousin talks of killing thousands
Published: Tuesday, January 9, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 8, 2007 at 11:32 p.m.
BAGHDAD, Iraq — Saddam Hussein had been dead nine days but his voice resounded through the courtroom Monday as he and his cousin "Chemical Ali" discussed killing thousands of Kurds in the 1980s, according to audiotapes played at their war crimes trial.
Saddam's physical presence was gone — his chair in the white metal pen where the defendants sit was empty — but his aura still hung over the proceedings against his former regime members.
The trial reconvened Monday for the first time since Dec. 21 and a little more than a week since Saddam was hanged for the killing of 148 Shiites after an assassination attempt in the town of Dujail in 1982.
The court's first order of business was to dismiss all charges against Saddam. His co-defendants — including his cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as "Chemical Ali" — remain in the dock for allegedly killing 180,000 Kurds in the 1980s as Iraq fought a protracted war with Iran.
Prosecutor Munqith al-Faroon aired graphic video during Monday's court session of scores of bodies in trucks and in piles on the street, overlaid with a voice purported to be that of al-Majid saying, "I will hit them with chemical weapons."
"Damn the international community if they say anything. I will strike them all with chemical weapons," the voice continued.
Another audiotape had a voice identified as Saddam's warning, "These weapons are only used at my orders." He also reassured colleagues that the weapons "kill by the thousands."
"It will force them out of their homes without water or food. It makes them evacuate their homes naked," the voice said.
In court, Al-Majid described the video as "painful," but said it showed the work of Iranian troops, not Iraqis. As for the audio, al-Majid did not deny the voices were his and Saddam's.
The tapes "not only condemn me, but the whole path that I was part of — the path of Saddam Hussein," al-Majid said.
Legal scholar Tariq Harb said the trial could make more progress without Saddam, who sometimes quietly glared at witnesses, shouted at them, or launched nationalists tirades that got him thrown out of court.
Also Monday, the U.S. military announced the deaths of two more American soldiers: one from combat wounds in Salahuddin province, which includes Saddam's hometown, and another from small-arms fire north of Baghdad.
Iraqi police, meanwhile, reported the discovery of 27 tortured bodies in the capital and the deaths of 23 other people, including nine Shiite workers gunned down in a minibus on their way to the Baghdad airport.
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