News headlines


Associated Press
 
Baghdad, May 15: The chief judge formally charged Saddam Hussein on Monday with murder, torture of women and children and the illegal arrest of 399 people in a crackdown against Shias in the 1980s, bringing the trial of the ousted Iraqi leader into a new phase.

Saddam, who sat alone in the defendant’s pen as the charges were read, refused to enter a plea when chief judge Raouf Abdel-Rahman asked him if he were guilty or not.

"I can’t just say yes or no to this. You read all this for the sake of public consumption, and I can’t answer it in brief," Saddam replied. "This will never shake one hair of my head."

"You are before Saddam Hussein, president of Iraq. I am the president of Iraq according to the will of the Iraqis and I am still the president up to this moment," he said. Abdel-Rahman entered a "not guilty" plea on Saddam’s behalf.

Saddam and seven former members of his regime have been on trial for nearly seven months over the crackdown against residents of the town of Dujail.

But under the Iraqi trial system, the court first hears plaintiffs outline their complaint against the defendants and the prosecution’s evidence against them. Then the judges decide on specific charges, and the defence begins making its case.

Security forces arrested hundreds of Dujail residents, including entire families, in the wake of a 1982 assassination attempt against Saddam in the town. Witnesses, including women, have recounted being tortured while in prison, farmlands were razed in retaliation and 148 Shias sentenced to death in connection with the shooting attack on Saddam. All 148 were killed, either dying under interrogation or executed. 

  

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