Hussein prosecutors build `paper trail'

Documents introduced to show president's approval of massacre

March 01, 2006|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- In a day short on drama but rich on documents, prosecutors presented what they described as a paper trail linking Saddam Hussein to the execution of nearly 150 people in a Shiite village.

The two-hour proceedings had little of the theatrics that have come to characterize the trial of the former Iraqi president. Instead, the session was dominated by the introduction of papers allegedly showing Hussein signing off on the execution of 148 Shiites, some of them children, from the town of Dujail after a failed assassination attempt against him there in 1982.

Key documents brought up during the two-hour proceedings were signed by Hussein, following an "imaginary trial," said Jaafar Moussawi, the lead prosecutor.

The evidence approving the death sentences were a memo from the Revolutionary Court dated in June 1984 and a later presidential order.

The trial also featured the introduction of documentary evidence about children being executed in the southern part of the country. Prosecutors presented one document they argued showed a note from Hussein, authorizing the intelligence service to bury 10 juveniles, ranging from 11 to 17, who had been put to death.

"Trial by document -this is what we saw today," said Nehal Bhuta, a lawyer from Human Rights Watch, adding that "it's these kinds of documents that will make or break the case."

Bhuta, who was monitoring the trial from inside the courtroom, said the proceedings entered a "critical phase in which the prosecution has an opportunity to prove the direct links between the crimes committed and the conduct of the defendants."

The trial, which began in October, has seen testimony by survivors of the Dujail reprisals and their families. It has often been characterized by a carnival-like atmosphere and long soliloquies from defendants and lawyers.

Hussein is on trial for crimes against humanity along with seven co-defendants, including his half-brother. Among the charges are the authorization of the torture and executions in Dujail.

In a news conference after the court session, Moussawi said 96 people had been executed at Abu Ghraib on March 23, 1985. An additional 46 had died previously, while being tortured. Ten - teenagers at the time - were killed in 1989. Six of those were connected to the town of Dujail.

If convicted, the defendants could face death by hanging.

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