Saddam trial witness shows court chemical burns

A Kurdish security officer testifying in Saddam Hussein’s genocide trial in Baghdad, Iraq, today showed the court body burns he allegedly received when armies of the deposed leader attacked his northern Iraqi village in 1988.

A Kurdish security officer testifying in Saddam Hussein’s genocide trial in Baghdad, Iraq, today showed the court body burns he allegedly received when armies of the deposed leader attacked his northern Iraqi village in 1988.

“A squadron of planes hovered in the sky. They began bombing the area and the bombs were two types – some had loud explosions, while some were somewhat silent,” said Maj Iskandar Mahmoud Abdul-Rahman, 41, as he recounted the attack on the leadership of his Patriotic Union of Kurdistan on March 20, 1988.

“We took the floor; white smoke covered us, it smelled awful,” said the man, who wore Western-style grey suit with a Kurdistan flag pin.

He said after several minutes, he escaped to another area where his health worsened.

“My heart beat increased. I started to vomit. I felt dizzy. My eyes burned and I couldn’t stand on my feet,” he added in Kurdish through an Arabic translator.

The witness said he was moved to two hospitals in Iran for treatment. In the second hospital, he said he lost consciousness for 10 days.

“The doctors were frequently giving me injections and medication, including eye drops. They cut the burned skin with scissors. I can show the court my scars that are still visible on my body,” he said, adding that his eyesight is still poor.

In June 1988, Abdul-Rahman said his health improved, and he was discharged from the hospital. But doctors told him not to expose his body to the sun, he said.

Sitting in the witness stand, Abdul-Rahman took off his blue shirt to show his body burns. But he insisted to do so off camera. A reporter who watched in the courtroom said there were several dark scars, roughly 20cm long, on his back. Saddam Hussein’s chief lawyer, Khalil al-Dulaimi, and prosecutor Munqith al-Faroon went up to take a closer look.

Today’s hearing was the ninth since Saddam’s trial resumed on August 21 on charges of committing atrocities against Kurds during the Operation Anfal crackdown in northern Iraq in the late 1980s.

The prosecution alleges some 180,000 people died in the campaign, many of them killed by poison gas.

Saddam, his cousin “Chemical” Ali al-Majid and five other co-defendants are standing trial. All seven could face death by hanging if convicted.

Another witness, farmer Raouf Faraj Abdullah, 55, spoke of poor living conditions he endured with his family in a detention camp in the northern city of Irbil, which was run by Saddam’s forces during the Operation Anfal.

“We stayed without food. Our condition was poor The local people of Irbil began hurling us food over the barbed wire,” said the man, who had a thick black moustache and wore the traditional Kurdish headdress.

He said he was later moved to another camp, where he was separated from his two-year-old son and his wife, who later gave birth in her prison cell.

“When I went to see her, I found out that my newborn baby had died,” he said.

He said 28 people were killed in attacks on his village.

“I saw them all with my own eyes,” he asserted when he was cross-examined by a defence lawyer if he saw the dead people. He also demanded compensation for his dead son and the belongings he lost.

Saddam – dressed in a dark suit with a white handkerchief in his chest pocket - sat silently, taking notes.

Today’s hearing also saw a fiery exchange between senior prosecutor, Jaafar al-Moussawi, and defence lawyer Badee Izzat Aref, who demanded that the prosecution be questioned for “deliberately misleading” the court by presenting a witness who allegedly had a forged passport.

He was referring to a Kurdish Iraqi witness, who told the court Monday that he sought asylum in the Netherlands where he acquired a Dutch passport in 1994. Saddam and his defense team argued that Iraqi law barred citizens from being dual nationals and asked that the Dutchman’s testimony be thrown out because it was allegedly in violation of the law.

Al-Moussawi rejected Aref’s remarks today.

“Such violations by this lawyer must be stopped,” he said. The chief judge gave Aref a “final” warning, threatening to take legal action against the attorney.

Aref is the lawyer of Farhan Mutlaq Saleh, who headed a regional military intelligence office during the Anfal operation.

Saddam is still waiting a verdict on October 16 in the first case against him - the nine-month-long trial over the killings of 148 Shiites in Dujail after a 1982 assassination attempt against him there. He and seven other co-defendants could face the death penalty in that case.

More in this section


Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox