'You Were Not a Dictator,' Judge Tells Hussein During Genocide Trial

By Sudarsan Raghavan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, September 15, 2006

BAGHDAD, Sept. 14 -- The judge in Saddam Hussein's genocide trial told the toppled Iraqi leader on Thursday that he wasn't "a dictator," one day after prosecutors accused the judge of bias and demanded his resignation.

Judge Abdullah al-Amiri made the comment shortly after the court heard emotional testimony from a Kurdish farmer who said Hussein told him to "shut up and get out" when he begged the Iraqi president to spare the lives of his wife and seven young children, who were taken into custody in 1988.

Hussein challenged the farmer's testimony, asking, "Why did he try to see Saddam Hussein [if] Saddam Hussein was a dictator and was against the Kurdish people?" according to the Associated Press.

Amiri said from the bench: "You are not a dictator. You were not a dictator. However, the people or the individuals and officials surrounding you created a dictator. It was not you in particular. It happens all over the world."

"Thank you," Hussein replied.

On Wednesday, prosecutors called for Amiri's resignation, saying he had allowed "defendants to go too far, with unacceptable expressions and words" and had "allowed the defendants to treat the chamber as a political forum," according to a pool report.

In a news conference Thursday, Iraqi High Tribunal spokesman Raed Juhi sought to control any damage that the judge's comments might have inflicted on the tribunal's ability to impartially try Hussein.

"The court will continue with its neutrality and its course. The judge is only human," Juhi said. "At the end, the judge will decide guilty or not guilty based on the evidence. This has no effect on the case."

Hussein, Ali Hassan al-Majeed, also known here as "Chemical Ali," and other co-defendants are facing charges of perpetrating atrocities against Kurdish villagers in northeastern Iraq during the so-called Anfal campaign in 1987 and 1988. They stand accused of killing 50,000 to 100,000 Kurds, many of them with poison gas.

Meanwhile, in the southern town of Diwaniyah, U.S. and Iraqi troops stormed the office of radical anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in a pre-dawn raid. Sahib al-Amiri, a Sadr aide, said the soldiers took computers from the office and some weapons from office guards but did not take anyone into custody. A U.S. military spokesman confirmed that the raid occurred but did not provide details.

Later Thursday morning, Sadr loyalists headed to the governor's office in Diwaniyah to protest the raid, but guards shot at the people and into the air to drive them away, Amiri said. Several protesters, he said, were wounded.

Elsewhere, a car bomb exploded Thursday morning near a Shiite mosque in northwest Baghdad's Hurriyah neighborhood, killing three people and wounding 15 and causing damage to the mosque, according to Col. Abdulrahman Awaiyed of the Interior Ministry.

A second car bomb detonated near the passport office in central Baghdad, killing three guards and wounding 17 civilians, he added.

Officials in Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, announced plans to start a security operation modeled after the one being carried out in some of Baghdad's most volatile neighborhoods to tame sectarian violence. The campaign in Basra, where British forces have responsibility for security, is expected to pull British troops from across the theater and send them from neighborhood to neighborhood. Basra is plagued by rising crime and power struggles between Shiite political parties backed by militias.

British and U.S. officials said the effort will also concentrate on reforming police stations in targeted neighborhoods by weeding out police who are loyal to Shiite militias or involved in crime. "We have to dare to say an institution is corrupted," said Abdal al-Jhabar, a deputy interior minister for southern Iraq. "We have to clean this up."

Correspondent Ellen Knickmeyer in Basra, special correspondent Naseer Nouri in Baghdad and other Washington Post staff in Iraq contributed to this report.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company