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Prosecutors try to nail Saddam on signature

By Staff
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Baghdad, Apr 19: Iraqi prosecutors pressed ahead today with efforts to prove that Saddam Hussein's signature was found on documents directly implicating him in the killings of 148 Shi'ites in the 1980s.

The chief judge read out a report by prosecution experts authenticating the ousted president's signature on documents.

''The writing and signatures ... that are related to Saddam Hussein match his handwriting and signatures,'' said chief judge Raouf Abdel Rahman after the trial of the ousted leader and seven co-accused resumed.

He later adjourned the trial until Monday to give the experts more time.

Saddam and his co-defendants are charged with the killings of 148 Shi'ite men and teenagers after an attempt on his life in the town of Dujail in 1982, when he got out of his armoured car and personally interrogated people after he was shot at.

Saddam has argued he had a right to refer them to court because they tried to assassinate a head of state. But he has refused to give a sample of his handwriting to the court.

Saddam, unusually quiet in his metal pen dressed in his dark suit and white shirt, and his seven co-accused could face hanging if found guilty.

His half brother Barzan al-Tikriti questioned prosecution documents, saying members of the former leader's Baath party never signed their names so the handwriting evidence should be thrown out.

He repeated his line that the 148 Shi'ites deserved to be prosecuted because they tried to kill the president and were linked to a country which was in a state of war with Iraq, as neighbouring Shi'ite Iran was at the time.

NEW CHARGES

But the former intelligence chief and Iraqi envoy to Geneva denied any involvement in the killings. ''Why kill 148 people? Even if they were foreign but they are our people! Dujail's people know who rounded them up and now you're trying to put this on my head,'' Barzan told the court.

Saddam is expected to soon face another trial on charges of genocide against Iraq's ethnic Kurds in the late 1980s in the Anfal campaign, in which he was accused of killing over 100,000 people.

Prosecutors chose the Dujail case first because they thought it was more clear cut than other charges such as genocide and would deliver a quick verdict.

But the trial has been tarnished by the killings of two defence lawyers, the resignation of the first chief judge due to what he said was government interference and tirades by Saddam and Barzan.

The possibility of parallel trials has raised concerns that Saddam could be in court for many years before justice is served.

Awad al-Bandar, the former chief of Saddam's Revolutionary Court accused of handing down the death sentences, called on the court to protect defendants' families from chief prosecutor Jaafar al-Moussawi, who he accused of stating publicly that the evidence was enough for convictions, a charge Moussawi denied.

REUTERS

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