- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 29, 2005

BAGHDAD — Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, on trial for the 1982 massacre of more than 140 civilians in the town of Dujail, listened intently yesterday to witness testimony describing the roundup after a failed attempt on his life.

It was the first direct evidence — provided by a man who died soon after his videotaped testimony — against Saddam during the trial.

“I don’t know why so many people were arrested,” said Wadah Ismael al-Sheik, chief investigator and intelligence officer at the time, explaining that only about 12 gunmen were involved in the attack on Saddam’s convoy.

He then said that one of Saddam’s co-defendants, Taha Yassin Ramadan, had ordered the town’s orchards destroyed.

While the tape played soundlessly in the background, Judge Razkar Mohammed Amin read aloud from the deposition made last month by Mr. Sheik from his hospital chair, just days before he died of cancer.

In the deposition, he said that 400 people, including whole families, were rounded up in Dujail, and many wound up in the notorious jails of Abu Ghraib and Lugrad Salmon.

Before the deposition was read, Saddam, carefully groomed and wearing a white shirt and dark gray jacket, came into the court and immediately tried to take control of the proceedings.

He defiantly demanded that Judge Amin order police to remove his shackles and handcuffs so he would not have to climb the stairs with them on and that his confiscated pen be returned.

“You are the chief judge. I don’t want you to tell them. I want you to order them. They are in our country. You have the sovereignty,” Saddam said angrily.

The judge refused to be riled by the outburst, unlike on the day the trial opened five weeks ago when the fallen ruler took over the courtroom with his disdain.

The judge in the high-security trial said he would request changes in the security approach, then adjourned the proceedings until Monday to give the defense time to replace two lawyers who were assassinated in the past five weeks.

The prosecution presented two videotapes yesterday to bolster its case that Saddam ordered the killing of 148 Shi’ites from Dujail in 1982. Saddam has said he is not guilty of the charges of murder and torture.

The first sepia-colored tape showed Saddam in Dujail, apparently shortly after the attempt on his life, telling his underlings how to deal with the villagers. “Keep them separate and interrogate them,” Saddam said.

Kamel, 35, watched the proceedings with his father at home in Baghdad’s Shi’ite slum of Sadr City.

“I worked before in Saddam’s palace. I saw many bad things,” said Kamel, who uses only one name. His father, Abu Kamel, cigarette in one hand and wooden prayer beads in the other, watched the television intently.

“This trial has been my dream. I just wanted to see him tried before I died,” he said.

Sitting with Saddam’s defense team were former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark and former Qatar Justice Minister Najib al-Nueimi. Both questioned the legitimacy and fairness of the court and its proceedings.

Mr. Clark, who is in Baghdad for three days, told CNN it was “extremely difficult to assure fairness” in the proceedings because passions in Iraq were at a “fever pitch.”

Saddam supporters dismissed the court as a sham.

“He does not deserve this trial — it is an American plan,” said a woman eating lunch at her dining room table in Baghdad’s middle-class neighborhood of Zayouna.

“Saddam was better than the Americans, because with him there were no kidnappings, you could walk around at night. I miss him and I would like him back,” said the mother of three, who refused to be identified. “Iraq was something important among Arabic countries before. It is nothing now.”

Despite increased police and military presence in the streets for the trial, four humanitarian workers, including one American, were kidnapped in west Baghdad yesterday, U.S. officials said. The others were two Canadians and one British citizen.

Hours later, two Britons were killed in an attack on a bus carrying Muslim pilgrims in Baghdad’s western Dora neighborhood. Three American soldiers were injured when a roadside bomb exploded near their convoy in northeastern Baghdad, the Associated Press reported.

The U.S. military said a Marine was killed Saturday when his vehicle hit a roadside bomb 45 miles west of Baghdad — raising the total U.S. military body count since the war started in March 2003 to 2,106.

Also yesterday, the State Department said that the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, had been given permission to meet with officials from Iran, a country with no diplomatic relations with the United States.

“It’s a very narrow mandate that he has,” spokesman Sean McCormack said in reference to Mr. Khalilzad, “and it deals specifically with issues related to Iraq.”

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