Witnesses face Hussein over attacks on Kurds

September 13, 2006|By Patrick J. McDonnell | Patrick J. McDonnell,LOS ANGELES TIMES

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- A Kurdish villager mocked Saddam Hussein in court yesterday as the man recalled the disappearance of his relatives during his former regime's 1980s military campaign in northern Iraq.

"Congratulations! You are in a cage," said the witness, Ghafour Hassan Abdullah, addressing Hussein and his six co-defendants, who were seated inside a metal grating placed in the courtroom.

Hussein's patience failed as a defense lawyer described Iraqi Kurdish rebels as freedom fighters.

"No, they are not! They are collaborators for the Zionists!" shouted Hussein during his trial on charges that his forces killed as many as 100,000 people during the military campaign against Kurdish militants. "We will crush the heads of all Zionists and their collaborators!"

A procession of witnesses testified yesterday at the trial, which is expected to last until at least December, about abuses by the dictator's military during the 1980s. Akram Ali Hussein, 41, described what he said was a chemical attack in 1987 on the village of Sikanyan.

"We saw all the bushes had turned white," he said.

The next year, he said, the village was bombarded again and a dozen of his relatives, including his mother, sister and brother, were imprisoned. Later, he said, he learned that two cousins had died of hunger and their bodies had been eaten by dogs at the prison.

"I want the whole world to know what he did," Akram Hussein said of the former Iraqi leader.

Saddam Hussein seemed exasperated on several occasions.

"When I am right I cannot be scared and I don't think there is a power on Earth that can shake even one hair of my mustache," Hussein declared. "But I have noticed today that there were too many insults. And when you put a lion in a cage, any coward can put a stick in the cage and frighten him."

The Iraqi parliament, meanwhile, yesterday shelved a measure that would have forced American authorities to present a schedule for the withdrawal of U.S. and other foreign troops from Iraq.

"We demand a timetable to rebuild our Iraqi forces and to rehabilitate our army," said Dhafir Ani, a representative of the minority Sunni Arab bloc. "This gathering today is the first step for a political stance against the occupation and to unite Iraq."

The Bush administration has refused to give a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, saying it would embolden the insurgency.

Patrick J. McDonnell writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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