Saddam Hussein today again insisted at his trial that he had been beaten by his American captors, calling Washington’s denials of abuse “lies”.
The former Iraqi leader yesterday said at his trial that he’d been beaten “everywhere on my body. The marks are still there.” He did not display any marks.
US officials strongly denied the allegations.
Saddam today said that American denials could not be believed, citing the fact that no weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq despite pre-war claims by US officials that Saddam was harbouring such weapons.
“We don’t lie. It is the White House that lies,” he told the court.
The former leader again started talking about his claims of abuse during a time when he’s allowed to cross examine witnesses.
He claimed that the wounds he suffered from the alleged beatings had been documented by at least two American teams.
Saddam and seven co-defendants are on trial in the deaths of more than 140 Shiite Muslims following a 1982 assassination attempt against him in the town of Dujail, north of Baghdad.
“Zionists and Americans, I mean officials, hate Saddam Hussein. The man in the White House is a liar. He said there are chemical weapons in Iraq,” Saddam said. “He later said that, ’We did not find anything in Iraq.”’
Saddam claimed that the wounds he suffered from the alleged beatings had been documented by at least two American teams and that it took eight months for some of the wounds to heal. He didn’t say where he was when he was allegedly beaten.
The former leader again started talking about his claims during a time when he’s allowed to cross examine witnesses.
The first witness to testify on Thursday – speaking from behind a curtain and with his voice disguised – said he was aged eight during the killings in Dujail. He said his grandmother, father and uncles had been arrested and tortured, and that he’d never again seen his male relatives, implying they’d been killed.
Saddam said the court should not depend on the testimony of witnesses who had not reached adulthood at the time of the alleged crime, and one of his defence attorneys underscored the fact the witness had been so young, getting him to admit he hadn’t been arrested and didn’t see any dead bodies.
Witnesses yesterday graphically described how their captors administered electric shocks and used molten plastic to rip the skin off prisoners in a crackdown following an assassination attempt against Saddam in 1982.
Saddam then grabbed centre stage with claims that Americans beat and “tortured” him and other defendants while in detention.
The trial’s chief prosecutor, Jaafar al-Mousawi, said if authorities found evidence of abuse Saddam could be transferred to the physical custody of Iraqi troops.
The prosecution’s first witness yesterday testified about killings and torture in Dujail. Ali Hassan Mohammed al-Haidari, who was 14 in 1982, said Saddam’s regime executed seven of his brothers.
Al-Haidari said that he and other residents from Dujail – including family members – were taken to Baghdad and thrown into a security services prison, where people from “9 to 90” were held.
Blood poured from head wounds and skin was pale from electric shocks, he testified. Security officials would drip melted plastic hoses on detainees, only to pull it off after it cooled, tearing skin off with it, he said.
“I cannot express all that suffering and pain we faced in the 70 days inside,” he said.
Two witnesses later testified from behind a curtain. One of them, identified only as Witness No. 2, said security officials “attached clamps to my thumbs and toes and private areas and tortured me with electricity until foam came out of my mouth.”
Saddam also interrupted al-Haidari’s testimony to ask the judge if the court could take a break for prayer on Wednesday. Although the witness agreed, the judge ordered the trial to continue. About 10 minutes later, Saddam swung to the left, closed his eyes and repeatedly bowed his head in prayer, the first time he has done that in court.
“Even if any of you doesn’t pray, the constitution of the state, be it the one signed by Saddam Hussein or the constitution that was dictated to the Iraqis by the American adviser, states that Islam is the religion of the state. I alerted you twice that it was time for prayers, but you ignored me.”
“I didn’t ignore you,” the judge responded.
“How can you put God on hold?” Saddam asked.
Muslims are required to pray five times a day at specific times.
In the 1980s, Iraq under Saddam was one of the most secular Arab states in the Middle East and Baghdad had some of the most vibrant nightlife in the region.
Following Operation Desert Storm in 1991 and as UN-imposed sanctions ground down the Iraqi economy, Saddam outwardly became more pious. He was seen praying and launching campaigns to reinforce the faith. Bars were restricted and nightlife became more muted.
Critics said his praying in court was a further effort to reach out to increasingly conservative Iraqis.
“Those who know Saddam well will not be duped by these scenarios. He kept trying hard to affect Iraqis emotionally and religiously and trying to deliver a message that he is a victim and not a tyrant,” said Mariam al-Rayes, a Shiite legislator.