Saddam Hussein called for Iraqis to forgive
each other when he returned to court for a genocide trial two days after
another panel of judges had condemned him to death for crimes against
humanity. He still is being tried for the brutal repression of Iraqi Kurds
in the late 1980s.
Dressed in his now familiar black suit and
white shirt, Saddam sat in silence as a series of witnesses described the
alleged atrocities during the so-called Anfal campaign that prosecutors
say killed more than 180,000 Iraqi Kurds in 1987 and '88.
The day's first witness, Qahar Khalil Mohammed, testified that he and
other men from his village surrendered to Iraqi soldiers after being told
Saddam had granted them amnesty. Instead, he said, the soldiers lined them
up and opened fire.
He tells the court that despite being shot twice, once in the head and
once in the back, he managed to survive the attack. He testified 33 people
from his village died.
After a midday break, the trial resumed and Saddam made an unexpected
courtroom plea for national peace and reconciliation.
A particularly somber faced Saddam called for all Iraqis, including
both Arabs and Kurds, to forgive one another and, in his words, "forget
the past and shake hands."
The Anfal trial continues despite speculation that Saddam may be
executed long before a final verdict can be rendered.
A ruling on the sentence is expected from a nine-member appellate court as early as next
month, and if it is upheld, the former Iraqi dictator would be executed
within 30 days.
Meanwhile, Iraq's Interior Ministry has accused more than 50 employees,
including several high-ranking officials of serious human rights
violations. A ministry spokesman told reporters the men are accused of
torturing hundreds of prisoners at a detention center in eastern Baghdad.
Iraq's Shi'ite dominated security force has long been accused of
abusing Sunni detainees and operating suspected torture chambers in
several makeshift prisons. The cases have been forwarded to an Iraqi court
for possible indictments.