Saddam trial: Woman tells of naked torture

A female witness, testifying at Saddam Hussein’s trial, said she was stripped naked in prison, hung by her feet and kicked in the chest by the former Iraqi leader’s half brother.

The woman provided some of the most gripping testimony so far in the trial, which went ahead yesterday despite a boycott by Saddam and four other defendants, who demanded the removal of the chief judge.

Weeping several times during her testimony, the woman described being stripped naked, hung by her hands, beaten and given electric shocks.

Then, she told the court, Barzan Ibrahim – Saddam’s half brother and the top co-defendant in the trial – told guards to instead hang her from her feet, then he kicked her three times in the chest.

“I told him (Ibrahim): ’For God’s sake, I’m a woman. Master, I have nothing to confess. Why are you doing this to me?”’ said the woman, who spoke from behind a beige curtain to protect her identity.

The woman was one of five witnesses who took the stand during Wednesday’s 4 1/2-hour session – all of whom were hidden behind the curtain.

The woman’s testimony directly implicated Ibrahim, Saddam’s one-time head of the Mukhabarat intelligence agency. She recounted her torture at the Mukhabarat’s Baghdad headquarters, where she said she and family members were taken after being arrested in a crackdown following a 1982 assassination attempt against Saddam in the Shiite village of Dujail.

She said she was later taken to the notorious Abu Ghraib prison. One day, she was driven back to the Mukhabarat headquarters for interrogation with her father, when guards threw a dead baby into the car and ordered it taken “to the Mukhabarat garage”.

“What crime have we all committed to go through this agony?” she asked, sobbing.

Chief judge Raouf Abdel-Rahman, who took over last week, pressed ahead with the proceedings yesterday at a rapid pace, taking advantage of the calm in a courtroom that has been plagued by shouting matches, scuffles and protests since the trial began October 19.

But the boycott by five of the case’s eight defendants and their defence team was likely to further undermine the trial, which has been cast as a key plank in Iraq’s transition from dictatorship to democratic rule.

US President George Bush said yesterday that he was not worried about the disarray surrounding the Saddam trial.

“Hopefully the trial will resume and be conducted in a fair” way, Bush told The Associated Press in an interview. ”It certainly stands in a stark contrast to how Saddam treated his people. I’d like to see the trial move forward … . That’s what democracies do. They give people a fair trial.”

Saddam and his co-defendants are on trial for the killing of more than 140 Shiites after the 1982 attempt on the former ruler’s life in Dujail, north of Baghdad. They face death by hanging if convicted.

The original defence team chosen by Saddam and his co-defendants has petitioned the tribunal to remove Abdel-Rahman, saying they will not attend until he goes.

They accuse Abdel-Rahman of having a “personal feud” with Saddam because the judge was born in Halabja, a Kurdish village hit by a poison gas attack allegedly ordered by Saddam in 1988.

Some 5,000 Kurds were killed in that attack, including several of Abdel-Rahman’s relatives.

The judge ordered the proceedings closed for the first half hour on Wednesday, barring press and television from the courtroom. It was not clear whether Saddam was brought for the hearing, and court officials did not say what took place.

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