A Kurdish chemistry teacher gave a harrowing account at Saddam Hussein’s genocide trial today of the death of 40 fellow villagers, including his mother and two daughters, in an alleged chemical attack in 1988.
“My wife was lying on her back, holding my two daughters – Shovan six months and Tabga four years – tight in her arms,” said Abdulla Qadir Abdulla, 58, tearfully.
“My daughters died in the gassing, but my wife was still alive,” he added.
He said his wife survived because he gave her an antidote to which he had access.
Abdulla then turned to chief judge Mohammed Oreibi al-Khalifa in the Baghdad court. “Your honour, you can imagine my condition when I saw my family members in this state.
“I saw more than 40 people, most of them were women and children, lying on the ground suffering from chemical injuries.”
Abdulla spoke at the resumption of Saddam’s genocide trial in Iraq, four days after an American forensic expert testified that an examination of hundreds of Kurdish remains found in mass graves showed they were gunned down and buried where they fell almost two decades ago.
The toppled Iraqi leader and his six co-defendants sat quietly in the courtroom. They face the possibility of execution if convicted for a 1987-88 military offensive against the Kurds of northern Iraq.
Michael Trimble, a forensic archaeologist with the US Army Corps of Engineers, described several of the recovered bodies when he testified on Thursday during the third consecutive day of testimony by US forensic experts.
The prosecution estimates that 180,000 Kurds were killed in the military offensive, code-named Operation Anfal, in which Saddam’s army allegedly destroyed hundreds of villages and killed or scattered their inhabitants in a scorched earth campaign against separatist guerrillas.
Trimble investigated the three mass graves in 2004 on behalf of the Iraqi tribunal prosecuting Saddam and members of his regime.
Al-Khalifa, the chief judge, approved a prosecution request today to wrap up hearing testimony from state witnesses during the session.
Prosecutor Munqith al-Faroon asked the court to speed up the hearing, saying “the trial should be fair and fast”.
Court officials said previously “thousands” of witnesses and documents were to be processed. So far, the court has heard at least 70 witnesses.
The trial abruptly adjourned until Wednesday after hearing Abdulla.
The next hearing will be dedicated to reviewing prosecution documents, said court officials.
Today’s witness, who said he also was a former Kurdish guerrilla fighter, became emotional when he described the death of his mother in the assault that was part of Operation Anfal.
“I saw a woman lying on her face near a stream and when I turned her over, I discovered she was my mother,” he said. ”I wanted to kiss her, but I knew I could be infected by the chemicals, so I stopped.”
“I was deprived from giving her a goodbye kiss,” he said, weeping.
He claimed that besides his mother and two daughters, 19 other relatives were either killed or went missing since the assault.