BAGHDAD, Iraq—A second day of drama unfolded Wednesday in the genocide trial of Saddam Hussein as a 45-year-old Kurdish villager cursed the former Iraqi dictator and his six co-defendants for the death and destruction they allegedly meted out 20 years ago during a seven-month campaign against Iraq's Kurdish minority.
"May God blind them all," cried Adiba Awla Baiz, who said her daughter was killed during what has become known as the Anfal campaign. Saddam and the other defendants sat motionless during her outburst.
Baiz has had two miscarriages since gas attacks on her village, and a third child died in infancy, she testified. In her village alone, 29 men were "Anfalized," a term referring to people who were taken away and never heard from again.
Her testimony punctuated the third day of a trial where prosecutors are expected to present more than 120 witnesses and 9,000 pieces of evidence. Judge Abdullah al-Ameri then adjourned until Sept. 11, clearly disappointing those who'd hoped he would allow this case to unfold more quickly than Saddam's previous trial. In that case, Saddam is accused of ordering the deaths of 148 men and boys from the village of Dujail.
Wearing a traditional black Kurdish garment and headdress, Baiz described how Iraqi jets attacked her village on April 16, 1987. The raid left her family burned and blinded, and she described several days of wandering the countryside for treatment, only to be tracked down by Iraqi troops and taken to a detention center.
On the fifth day, she was able to open her eyes and saw her children's eyes swollen and their skin blackened. Men from the village were rounded up and taken away.
"It was doom's day. It was day of judgment," she said.
Saddam and the defendants, including his cousin, Ali Hassan Majid, also known as Chemical Ali, are accused of masterminding the Anfal campaign, which resulted in the destruction of 2,000 Kurdish villages and the deaths of as many as 182,000. Anfal is taken from a chapter in the Quran that means "spoils of war" against nonbelievers, but it has come to have the same connotation in Iraq as "ethnic cleansing" does in genocide cases, such as those in Rwanda and the Balkans.
The defense has contended that the effort was directed toward Iranian invaders and Kurdish rebels, not civilians. But prosecutors have argued that the campaign was too vast to focus only on rebel forces.
The connection to Iran was made clear in the questioning of witness Mosa Abdullah Mosa, whose village was gassed April 25, 1988. Mosa acknowledged being a member of the peshmerga, a Kurdish rebel group.
Mosa testified about finding his brother and nephew embracing in death after the gas attack and then discovered his wife dead as well. "A person can't describe his feeling. Just the eyes. Just the eyes and the heart saw that situation," Mosa testified.
But defense attorneys dismissed his testimony, highlighting his role in battling Iraqi government troops and getting him to acknowledge that the peshmerga captured Iraqi soldiers as prisoners of war.
"We were in a war with Iraq at that time. He's a traitor," said one defense attorney.
The judge ordered the comment stricken from the record.
(Brunswick reports for The (Minneapolis) Star-Tribune.)
(c) 2006, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.