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Co-defendant testifies as Saddam trial resumes

For the second day, the chief judge and prosecutor questioned the trial's eight defendants, one by one.

india Updated: Mar 13, 2006 15:13 IST

One of Saddam Hussein's co-defendants testified Monday in the trial of the former Iraqi leader and members of his regime, denying he helped turn in Shiite families during a crackdown in the 1980s that killed more than 140 people.

For the second day, the chief judge and prosecutor questioned the trial's eight defendants, one by one. Three defendants, all low-level officials from Saddam's former ruling BaathParty, were heard on Sunday.

It was not known when Saddam was due to appear, since it is up to chief judge RaoufAbdel-Rahman to decide the order. If he goes last, his turn was likely to come in a later session.

Also still to be heard are the other top defendants in the case, including Saddam's half-brother and former intelligence chief BarzanIbrahim and Saddam's former vice president, TahaYassin Ramadan.

Saddam and seven former members of his regime are on trial for the deaths of 148 Shiites, as well as illegal imprisonment and torture, in a crackdown launched after a 1982 assassination attempt in the Shiite town of Dujail. They face possible execution by hanging if convicted.

The first defendant heard Monday was Mohammed Azawi Ali, a low-level Baath official accused of informing on Dujail residents.

The elderly Ali denied any role udner questioning by chief judge RaoufAbdel-Rahman.

"I didn't detain anyone, not even a bug. I didn't write any reports about people, and if there is someone in Dujailwho says this bring him here and let him face me," he told the court.

"I don't know why they brought me here," he insisted, sitting alone in the defendants' pen in front of the five-judge panel. When the chief prosecutor presented signed testimony by Ali to investigators, Ali replied, "Read it and let my father be cursed. What are they gong to do, excuteme? I am dying anyway from heart problems and ulcers."

The three defendants who testified on Sunday -- MizharAbdullah Ruwayyid, his father Abdullah Ruwayyidand Ali Dayih Ali -- also denied that they turned in Dujail residents to the security forces and the feared Mukhabarat intelligence service.

Saddam and the other defendants have spoken up often during the six-month trial, casting doubt on witness testimony or making speeches.

But the testimonies give the judge and prosecutor the opportunity for the first time to pose direct questions to them. In a March 1 session, Saddam stood and boldly confessed that he sent the 148 Shiites to trial before his Revolutionary Court, which eventually sentenced them to death.

But he insisted it was his right to do so, since they were suspected of trying to kill him. The prosecution has argued that the Revolutionary Court trial was "imaginary" and that the defendants didn't even appear before the court.

First Published: Mar 13, 2006 15:04 IST