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Genocide Trial Continues After Three-Week Hiatus For Hussein

By Paul Von Zielbauer
THE NEW YORK TIMES


BAGHDAD, IRAQ

The trial of Saddam Hussein on charges of genocide against Iraq’s Kurds resumed Monday following a nearly three-week hiatus, while sectarian violence continued on Baghdad’s streets, killing more than a dozen people in the suicide bombing of a crowded bus downtown.

At a meeting of Parliament inside the fortified Green Zone here, meanwhile, an effort by a group of Shiite lawmakers to promote legislation that would allow Iraq to be partitioned into autonomous regions appeared to lose some momentum Monday after a rival Shiite bloc dissented.

Also Monday, Prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki said in a statement that he plans to make his first state visit to Iran on Tuesday, to discuss security and political issues.

In the trial, Saddam and six other former officials in his government face charges that they killed more than 50,000 Kurdish Iraqis during a 1988 campaign in northern Iraq, in which the government used conventional and chemical weapons against civilians. Saddam also faces the charge of genocide.

He and his co-defendants maintain that the campaign was military, to support Iraqi troops who were trying to suppress Kurdish militias backed by Iran.

On Monday, three Kurdish witnesses described attacks in 1987 and 1988 in which chemical gas attacks in Iraq’s mountainous northeast region by Iraqi troops left villagers blinded and desperately ill.

Katrin Michael, 56, a Kurdish woman who said she now lived in Virginia, said she and several other villagers saw Iraqi military planes drop bombs that issued white smoke that smelled of garlic. Villages who did not die from the chemicals developed large blisters, she said.

A second witness, Ahmed Abdel Rahman Ahmed, described Iraqi troops who razed his village in September 1987. “They evacuated the village and burned the houses,” he told the court, adding that they also stole 100 of his sheep and goats.

Defense lawyers characterized those raids as a necessary reaction to the Kurdish villagers’ refusal to leave their homes after being ordered to relocate to a new, restricted area by the Hussein government.

As has become his custom, Saddam spent part of his day lecturing the chief judge, Abdullah al-Amiri, about what he characterizes as the illegitimacy of the charges against him.