Chief judge Abdullah al-Amiri on Saddam genocide
trial. Photo: AP
Former dictator Saddam Hussein (R), Ali Hassan Al-Majeed
known as "Chemical Ali" (L)
Photo : AFP
September 19, 2006
BAGHDAD ,September 19, -- The chief judge in
Saddam Hussein's genocide trial was replaced Tuesday
amid complaints from Shiite and Kurdish officials
that he was too soft on the former Iraqi leader, a
move that could raise accusations of government
interference in the highly sensitive case.
The government spokesman's office announced that
judge Abdullah al-Amiri was removed but did not say
who would take his place or why he was replaced. He
was replaced on the five-member panel by Mohammed
al-Uraibiy, who was his deputy in the trial, said a
court source, who spoke on condition of anonymity
because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Al-Uraibiy is a Shiite Arab, the source said.
The Arab satellite stations Al-Arabiya and Al-Jazeera
said al-Amiri was removed after a request from
Iraq's prime minister.
Hussein al-Duri, an aide to the prime minister, said
one reason was al-Amiri's comments last week in a
court session, in which the judge told Saddam, "You
were not a dictator."
"The head of the court is requested to run and
control the session, and he is not allowed to
violate judicial regulations, " al-Duri told Al-Arabiya
television. "It is not allowed for the judge to
express his opinion."
Al-Amiri's comment angered many Kurds and Shiites,
fueling their criticism that he was too lenient with
Saddam. Prosecutors had already asked for al-Amiri
to be replaced after he allowed Saddam to lash out
at Kurdish witnesses during a court session.
The change could revive complaints that the
government is interfering in the tribunal trying
Saddam and his regime members to ensure a quick
guilty verdict. In the current trial,www.ekurd.net Saddam faces a
possible death penalty if convicted on genocide
charges over the Anfal military offensive against
Iraqi Kurds in the 1980s.
In Saddam's first trial — over alleged atrocities
against Shiites in the town of Dujail — the chief
judge stepped down halfway through the
nine-month-long proceedings, saying he could no
longer put up with criticism from officials that he
was too lenient in allowing courtroom outbursts by
Saddam and his co-defendants.
He was replaced by a far tougher judge who several
times threw out defendants and defense lawyers he
said were out of line.
A verdict in the Dujail trial is expected on Oct.
Al-Amiri presided over the latest session of trial
Tuesday, in which more Kurdish survivors of Anfal
recounted chemical bombardment of their villages by
the Iraqi military.
One witness, Iskandar Mahmoud Abdul-Rahman, a major
in the Kurdistan security force, told the court that
an attack on his village began on March 20, 1988,
when Iraqi aircraft appeared over the skies.
"We dropped to the floor; white smoke covered us, it
smelled awful," Abdul-Rahman testified in Kurdish.
"My heart raced. I started to vomit. I felt dizzy.
My eyes burned and I couldn't stand on my feet."
Abdul-Rahman said he was treated at two hospitals in
Iran, and lost consciousness for 10 days.
"The doctors were frequently giving me injections
and medication, including eye drops. They cut the
burned skin with scissors," he said, adding that his
eyesight remains poor.
Abdul-Rahman then removed his blue shirt. There were
several dark scars, each about 8 inches long, on his
Saddam's chief lawyer, Khalil al-Dulaimi, and
prosecutor Munqith al-Faroon approached the witness
to take a close look.
Saddam and six other defendants are on trial for
alleged atrocities against Kurds during Operation
Anfal, a crackdown on Kurdish guerrillas in the late
1980s. The prosecution alleges some 180,000 people
died in the campaign, many of them civilians killed
by poison gas.
Saddam and his cousin "Chemical" Ali al-Majid are
charged with genocide, and the others are accused of
various offenses. All could face death by hanging if
Two other witnesses also testified Tuesday,
repeating allegations of abuse suffered in the
Raouf Faraj Abdullah, a 55-year-old farmer, told of
poor living conditions and a shortage of food in a
detention camp in the northern city of Erbil.
"The people of Erbil tossed food over the barbed
wire," said the man, who had a thick black mustache
and wore a traditional Kurdish headdress.
He said he was moved to another camp, where he was
separated from his 2-year-old son and his wife, who
later gave birth in her prison cell.
"When I went to see her, I found out that my newborn
baby had died," he said.
Abdullah said 28 people were killed in attacks on
A third witness, Ubeyd Mahmoud Mohammed, said 70
people, including his wife and six children, were
killed by an attack on his village March 22, 1988.
Saddam, dressed in a dark suit with a white
handkerchief in his chest pocket, sat silently
throughout the testimony, taking notes.
But the session was marked by a heated exchange
between the senior prosecutor, Jaafar al-Moussawi,
and defense lawyer Badee Izzat Aref, who accused
prosecutors of misleading the court by presenting a
witness who allegedly had a forged passport.
He referred to an Iraqi Kurd who told the court
Monday that he sought asylum in the Netherlands
where he acquired Dutch citizenship in 1994.
Saddam and his lawyers argued that Iraqi law barred
dual nationality, and asked that the man's testimony
be stricken from the record.
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