Saddam-era judge stands by execution orders

The judge who oversaw the trial of 148 Shi'ite men said he had personally issued a death warrant for them and insisted it was legal.

india Updated: Mar 13, 2006 18:34 IST

The judge who oversaw the trial of 148 Shi'itemen accused of plotting to assassinate Saddam Hussein in 1982 said in court on Monday he had personally issued a death warrant for them and insisted it was legal.

"They attacked the president of the republic and they confessed," AwadHamed al-Bandar, former head of Iraq's Revolutionary Court, said in testimony before the judges trying him, Saddam and six others for crimes against humanity.

The killing of the 148 men from the Shi'itetown of Dujail after the assassination attempt is at the heart of the case.

Saddam, who was not in court on Monday, said during his last appearance on March 1 that he had ordered the trial under Bandar, which led to the executions and also the destruction of Dujailfarms but said this had been an entirely legitimate procedure.

"Where is the crime?" the former president demanded to know.

Bandar, the first of the four high-ranking defendants to give testimony in his own defence, followed that argument, accusing the dead men of being part of a plot by the Iranian-backed Dawaparty to kill Saddam during Iraq's war with Iran.

"It was provoked by Iran. They were members of Dawa. The leadership of Dawawas in Iran," Bandar said.

The present leader of Dawa, a Shi'iteIslamist party, is Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, whose government has pressed for the Dujail trial to move forward rapidly.

"The target was the head of state and we were in a state of war with Iran," Bandar said. "He was the commander of the armed forces ... The court took two weeks. The 148 men had confessed.

"It is all in the files."

In a phase of the trial that began on Sunday, four local Baathparty officials from Dujail had already made their appearances -- three of them contesting sworn statements that the prosecution said they had made in pre-trial proceedings.

One of these, appearing on Monday, said he could not read or write and denied making a statement signed by him in which he purportedly said he saw Saddam's half-brother and his vice president in Dujail when alleged plotters were being rounded up.

"The judge wrote this. I didn't say it. It is a lie. I can't read or write," Mohammed Azawi Ali al-Marsoumi told the court.

Saddam should testify later on Monday or, more likely, in the coming days before the trial adjourns for several weeks.

White-moustached and wearing a white headdress, he accused the investigating judge, Raed Jouhi, of fabricating evidence -- drawing a rebuke from chief trial judge Raouf Abdul Rahman.

"You wrote that!" Marsoumi later yelled at the chief prosecutor after Jaafar al-Moussawi read the statement. "I didn't say that ... I said one word and they wrote 30 lines."

Among the three defendants to testify on Sunday, one contested his sworn statement because he said he had signed it without having his spectacles and another said he had not read the statement before signing because he trusted Jouhi.

All four of those heard earlier are from Dujail.

First Published: Mar 13, 2006 18:34 IST