Iraq: First Female Witness In Hussein Trial Says She Was Repeatedly Tortured
By Ron Synovitz
More witnesses are giving evidence today in the trial of Saddam Hussein and seven of his deputies on charges of crimes against humanity. The defendants are accused of ordering and carrying out a massacre of almost 150 people in the Shi'ite village of Al-Dujayl, north of Baghdad, in 1982. They have all pleaded not guilty. If convicted, the defendants could face death by hanging. Yesterday, the trial's first witnesses spoke of the torture they say they endured during the rule of the deposed Iraqi leader.
Prague, 6 December 2005 (RFE/RL) -- The first Iraqi woman to testify did so today from behind a screen, with her voice disguised to protect her identity. She told of being repeatedly tortured at the hands of Saddam Hussein's intelligence agents.
The woman was identified only as Witness A. She said she had been a young girl when she was taken into custody following a failed assassination attempt against Hussein in Al-Dujayl in 1982.
"They took the families -- the infants and the elderly people and the children -- to Abu Ghurayb [prison]," she said. "For the young girls, they put us in the building of the intelligence agency until the end of their investigation. After the investigation, they took us to Abu Ghurayb."
The woman said she was put into a red room within the intelligence service's building in Baghdad. She said she was tortured so often that, at times, she was unable to eat. She said she was ordered to take her clothes off by Wadah al-Shaykh, an Iraqi intelligence officer who died of cancer last month. She says al-Shaykh tied her hands, beat her, and repeatedly tortured her with electric shocks.
Breaking down in tears at several points, the woman also strongly suggested that she was raped by at least five of Hussein's intelligence agents, saying they had treated her "like a banquet." She asked the court, "Is this what happens to the virtuous woman that Saddam speaks about?"
Chief Judge Rizgar Muhammad Amin told the court that the curtain and disguised voices will be necessary to protect some witnesses and their families. "According to the law, under Article 48 of the rules of procedures for this court -- and on the demand of the complainants -- it was decided not to reveal the names of the witnesses to the public," he said. "Witnesses are to be identified by a letter. But the full names of the witnesses will be given to the defense lawyers on condition that they do not reveal their identities [to anyone outside of the tribunal]."
Yesterday, the first two witnesses to testify in the trial against Hussein and his co-defendants took the stand. Both were men who allowed their names to be announced and their pictures to be transmitted around the world.
Ahmad Hassan said he saw a machine at a secret police center in Baghdad that looked like a meat grinder with blood and human hair on it. He said he and others had been tortured for 70 days and were kept in a place called Hall 63.
The other witness, Ahmad Hassan Muhammad, spoke for two hours. He alleged that Iraqi intelligence agents -- headed by Saddam Hussein's half-brother, Barzan al-Tikriti -- rounded up the residents of Al-Dujayl and took them off to be tortured and killed.
At one point, al-Tikriti interrupted Muhammad, shouting that he was a liar. Al-Tikriti described himself as a patriot who had headed the intelligence service of Iraq. He also said there was no place called Hall 63 and no place in the intelligence building large enough to accommodate the number of prisoners the witness had testified were kept there.
During yesterday's unruly session, Hussein attempted to control the proceedings through boisterous outbursts. He told the chief judge that he is not afraid of execution. "When I speak, I am your brother in the Iraqi sense. Execution is as cheap as the shoe of an Iraqi. I am not afraid of being executed. You know me very well from the beginning until today. I know you are under pressure," Hussein said.
As the Al-Dujayl trial continues, at least nine witnesses are expected to testify from behind a curtain while using the voice modulator.
(Translations by Radio Free Iraq's Maysun al-Hab.)
Copyright (c) 2005. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
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