Hussein trial videos show atrocities

December 20, 2006|By Molly Hennessy-Fiske | Molly Hennessy-Fiske,LOS ANGELES TIMES

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- The gruesome video footage showed a man cradling a dead infant, bodies piled in the back of a truck, women and children weeping and telltale smoke rising from the hills.

Prosecutors presented the videos and other documents yesterday at Saddam Hussein's second genocide trial. Hussein and six co-defendants are charged in connection with the Anfal campaign of chemical weapon attacks on villages in the Kurdish north of Iraq during the 1980s.

The videotapes showed scenes of carnage captured in Kurdish villages in April 1987 and May 1988, both preceding and during the Anfal campaign designed to root out Kurdish resistance fighters known as peshmerga.

"Look at these dead children. These are the dead saboteurs and insurgents," chief prosecutor Munqith Faroon said as the footage played, explaining that the videos were shot in areas attacked with chemical weapons.

Hussein and his co-defendants watched passively, with no immediate reaction. Later, they disputed the videos, as well as more than a dozen documents submitted as evidence of the Anfal campaign, which is believed to have killed at least 180,000 people.

The evidence yesterday included once-secret military records showing death tolls from sarin and mustard gas attacks and a memo from Hussein's secretary saying a Dutch businessman supplied the Iraqi government with "rare and banned chemical weapons." Dutch businessman Frans van Anraat was convicted last year of complicity in war crimes for selling Iraq chemical weapons and given a 15-year prison term.

Defendant Ali Hassan Majid, known as "Chemical Ali" for his role in organizing the Anfal campaign, dismissed some of the documents as forgeries. He said the videos didn't show innocent civilians, but rather allies of Iranian-backed peshmerga whom the government warned to leave before the attacks.

"My country was threatened with occupation. Either I would let occupied forces drown Baghdad or I would defend Baghdad," said Majid, a cousin of the deposed president.

Another defendant, Hussein's former minister of defense, Sultan Hashim Ahmad Jaburri Tai, likewise insisted the Anfal campaign was justified.

"It was an honorable mission to fight the Iranian enemy," he said.

The trial is scheduled to continue this week, with prosecutors submitting evidence of the individual roles each defendant played in the Anfal campaign.

Hussein was sentenced to death after his genocide trial last month in connection with killings in the Shiite Muslim village of Dujayl after a botched assassination attempt against him in 1982.

Molly Hennessy-Fiske writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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