Documents Said to Tie Hussein to Killings

By Nelson Hernandez and Omar Fekeiki
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, March 1, 2006

BAGHDAD, Feb. 28 -- Prosecutors on Tuesday presented documents they say link Saddam Hussein to the executions of more than 140 people following a failed attempt in 1982 to assassinate him, as the trial of the former Iraqi leader resumed after a two-week recess.

One document mentioning death sentences for prisoners ages 11-17 allegedly includes a margin note in Hussein's handwriting indicating that the country's intelligence agency should handle their burial.

In past sessions, prosecutors have called witnesses to describe fearsome crimes they endured during the Hussein era. But most of the testimony did little to establish responsibility by the former president. Tuesday's session focused on often dryly worded documents that prosecutors contend link Hussein and other defendants directly to the massacre of residents of Dujail, a town 35 miles north of Baghdad, following the attempt on Hussein's life.

The chief prosecutor read the documents one at a time as the defendants listened almost silently -- a striking contrast with previous sessions, in which Hussein and co-defendant Barzan Ibrahim, Hussein's half brother and Iraq's former intelligence chief, have dominated the courtroom with colorful denunciations of the judge, witnesses and the United States.

Chief Judge Raouf Rasheed Abdel-Rahman and the defense questioned the provenance of some of the documents because they were handwritten, but many bore the seal of the Iraqi government's intelligence service, the Mukhabarat.

"We think these are some significant documents that are starting to connect the dots and show a handprint in this case," said a U.S. diplomat with knowledge of the case, who spoke on condition that he not be named, following common practice among diplomats. More documents are set to be presented at the trial's next session on Wednesday.

A memo from the country's Revolutionary Court, dated June 14, 1984, declared that 148 suspects in the assassination attempt had been sentenced to death by hanging. Another document, dated two days later and allegedly signed by Hussein, approved all of the death sentences, prosecutors said.

The prosecutors presented a document from March 1985, signed by Ibrahim, that ordered that the executions proceed.

Another Revolutionary Court document from that month confirmed that 96 people had been hanged at the Abu Ghraib prison. A report from the intelligence service noted that an additional 46 people had been "liquidated during interrogations," and that four people had been executed by mistake.

A 1985 Mukhabarat memorandum entered into evidence said that "it was discovered that the execution of 10 juveniles was not carried out because their ages ranged from 11 to 17 years old. We recommend executing them in a secret manner in coordination with the management of the prison and the Mukhabarat."

The prosecutor said that Hussein drew an arrow from this paragraph to the margin and wrote: "Yes. It is preferable that they are buried by the Mukhabarat."

The chief prosecutor, Jaafar Mousawi, said the 10 boys were allowed to reach the age of majority under Iraqi law. Then they were executed.

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