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"Get out!" Kurd survivor recalls of plea to Saddam

Written by: Staff

BAGHDAD, Sep 14 (Reuters) A Kurdish farmer told a judge today how a furious Saddam Hussein shouted ''shut up and get out'' when he pleaded for the life of his wife and seven young children, who were rounded up in their village in 1988.

''He told me to approach him and I begged him for their lives,'' said Abdulla Mohammad Hussain, recounting his visit to one of Saddam's palaces as he testified to the court trying the toppled leader on genocide charges against ethnic Kurds.

''When I told him the name of the village he shouted: 'Don't even mention this. Shut up and get out,''' Hussain said in dramatic testimony during the fourth hearing this week of a trial that began last month. He said his 40-day-old daughter was among those that disappeared.

Mr Saddam, clutching a Koran, listened impassively as the witness told how he fled to neighbouring Iran with one of his sons after Saddam's troops bombed the village of Sida, near the city of Sulaimaniya, in northern Iraq.

During cross-examination, Saddam, who has defended the policies of his Sunni-led government of crushing Kurdish rebels fighting alongside Shi'ite Iran during the final years of the Iraq-Iran war, said he didn't remember ever seeing the witness, who described himself as illiterate.

''Do you have a receipt that you saw me? The Presidential Palace always issued receipts to those who came to visit me?'' Saddam asked of the alleged incident 18 years ago.

''No. You took the receipt away from me when I saw you,'' said Hussain, who is in his mid-50s and wore a traditional headdress.

Mr Saddam, 69, and his cousin, Ali Hassan al-Majeed, known as ''Chemical Ali'', face charges of genocide.

Five other former commanders also face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for their role in the 1988 Anfal -- or Spoils of War -- onslaught prosecutors said left 182,000 Kurds dead or missing, thousands killed by poison gas.

The initial phase of the trial has featured a litany of often harrowing testimony from Kurdish survivors, who are considered plaintiffs under Iraqi law, entitled personally to accuse the defendants of crimes.

''NOT A DICTATOR'' Prosecutors demanded yesterday that chief judge Abdulla Al-Amiri resign for letting defendants make speeches and threaten witnesses. Saddam has pledged to ''crush the heads'' of his accusers, and prosecutors have complained that the judge is too soft on him.

In a bizarre exchange with Saddam, Amiri politely addressed Saddam after the former president said it didn't make sense that an Anfal survivor would visit a ''dictator''.

''You are not a dictator. It is the people and the system that surround him that fabricated dictators.'' Smiling, and visibly pleased, Saddam took his seat and said: ''Thank you.'' Mr Saddam and his co-defendants, all of whom were present in court today, could face the death penalty if found guilty.

Mr Saddam is also awaiting a verdict in a first, separate, trial for crimes against humanity over the deaths of 148 Shi'ite men after a failed assassination attempt against the former Iraqi president in 1982.

The trial was adjourned until Monday.


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