By Ahmed Rasheed
Monday, January 8, 2007; 11:14 AM
BAGHDAD - Saddam Hussein and his cousin "Chemical Ali" discussed killing thousands with chemical weapons before unleashing them on Kurds in 1988, according to tapes played on Monday in a trial of former Iraqi officials.
Nine days after Saddam's hanging, his front-row seat in the dock was conspicuously empty, but Ali Hassan al-Majeed and five other Baath party officials remain on trial for their roles in the 1988 Anfal, or Spoils of War, campaign in northern Iraq.
"I will strike them with chemical weapons and kill them all," a voice identified by prosecutors as that of Majeed, Saddam's cousin and a senior aide, is heard saying.
"Who is going to say anything? The international community? A curse on the international community!" the voice continued.
"Yes, it's effective, especially on those who don't wear a mask immediately, as we understand," another voice, identified as that of Saddam, is heard saying on another tape.
"Sir, does it exterminate thousands?" a voice asks back.
"Yes, it exterminates thousands and forces them not to eat or drink and they will have to evacuate their homes without taking anything with them, until we can finally purge them," the voice identified as Saddam answers.
Prosecutors did not explain who ordered the recordings or when or why they were made and court officials could not elaborate. Audio tapes have been introduced in the court before and Saddam is believed to have recorded some of his meetings.
MANY KURDS GASSED
Prosecutors said 180,000 people were killed, many of them gassed. Many Kurds regret the chief suspect can no longer face justice for his role in the campaign against them, but they hope others share his fate on the gallows.
Saddam was hanged on December 30 after being convicted in an earlier trial for his role in killing 148 Shi'ites in the 1980s.
Majeed, who faces charges of genocide, is considered the main enforcer of the Anfal campaign. The gassing of 5,000 people in the town of Halabja is the subject of a separate case.
Defendants have said Anfal was a legitimate military operation targeting Kurdish guerrillas who had sided with Shi'ite Iran during the last stages of the Iraq-Iran war.
Chief prosecutor Munqith al-Faroon also played on Monday video showing women and children lying dead on village streets and mountain slopes after what he said was a chemical attack ordered by Saddam: "These are the honorable battles they claimed to have launched against the enemy," he told the court.
Judge Mohammed al-Ureybi, in his first order of business, formally dropped charges of genocide and crimes against humanity against Saddam. He cut off the microphones when Majeed stood up and started to read the Koran in tribute to his former chief.
"In virtue of the confirmation of the death of defendant Saddam Hussein, the court decided to finally stop legal procedures against defendant Saddam Hussein according to the Iraqi Penal Procedures Law," Ureybi told the court.
Looking tired and sporting an uncharacteristic white stubble, often a sign of mourning, Majeed refused to take his chair and insisted on reciting a prayer as he stood behind Saddam's empty chair.
"Make him sit down, make him sit down," Ureybi ordered the bailiffs.
Saddam's hanging has turned him into a martyr in parts of the Arab world, overshadowing memories of his often brutal rule.
Two Saddam aides, his half-brother Barzan al-Tikriti and former judge Awad al-Bander, are likely to be hanged any day now after being convicted along with Saddam for killing Shi'ites.