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Saddam back in the dock

Saddam opened his second trial with a show of defiance, refusing to enter a plea on charges of genocide.

india Updated: Aug 21, 2006 17:16 IST

Saddam Hussein opened his second trial with a show of defiance on Monday, refusing to enter a plea on charges of genocide and war crimes connected to his scorched-earth offensive against Kurds nearly two decades ago.

The trial opens a new legal chapter for the ousted Iraqi leader, who once again faces a possible death penalty for the deaths of tens of thousands of Kurds during the Iraqi army's 'Operation Anfal' - Arabic for "spoils of war."

The 1987-88 crackdown was aimed at crushing independence-minded Kurdish militias and clearing all Kurds from the northern region along the border with Iran.

Saddam accused the Kurds of helping Iran in its war with Iraq.

Many villages were razed and countless young men disappeared, according to survivors.

"It's time for humanity to know ... The magnitude and scale of the crimes committed against the people of Kurdistan," the lead prosecutor for the Anfal case, Munqith al-Faroon, said in his opening statement at the trial's first session on Monday.

"Entire villages were razed to the ground, as if killing the people wasn't enough ... Wives waited for their husbands, families waited for their children to return- but to no avail," he said, showing the court photos of the bodies of dead mothers and children.

The prosecution also accuses the army of using prohibited mustard gas and nerve agents in the campaign and a map of northern Iraq in the courtroom had red stickers on locations where the weapons were allegedly used.

But the trial does not deal with the most notorious gassing, the March 1988 attack on Halabja that killed an estimated 5,000 Kurds.

That incident will be part of a separate investigation by the Iraqi High Tribunal.