[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Languages
Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 December 2005, 16:46 GMT
Saddam challenges torture testimony

By John Simpson
BBC World Affairs Editor, Baghdad

The trial of Saddam Hussein and some of his associates has been hearing evidence from a woman from the town of Dujail, where more than 140 people were killed after an attempt on Saddam's life in 1982.

Saddam gesticulates at his trial
Saddam Hussein himself cross examined one of the witnesses
She was known only as Witness A, and spoke from behind a curtain.

In a voice grotesquely disguised by electronic means, she told how, at the age of 16, she had been stripped naked in what she called an "operation room" and chained to a table.

Five men beat her with steel cables and gave her electric shocks.

As a result, she said, several of the girls who were tortured with her have never been able to marry or have children.

Moving testimony

Sometimes she would break down in tears, her disguised voice rumbling and shaking in a way that was almost more upsetting to listen to than the normal sound of a woman crying.

After the torturers had finished with her and the other Dujail families, they were all sent off to the desert, where they lived for four years under appalling conditions.

"We lost everything," she said. "All my youth is gone. Our future is gone."

Her testimony was very moving, and confirmed much that is known about conditions in Saddam's jails.

Yet questions were soon raised about the value to the prosecution of what Witness A had said.

The senior judge told her: "The details you are giving now are different from those you gave when your examination took place."

"This is true," she answered.

Vested interests

One of the points the defence is making about the prosecution witnesses is that they have a financial interest in the case, since they are also looking for financial compensation for what happened to them.

This trial has not so far become the overwhelming condemnation of Saddam's regime that might have been expected

Then the leading defence counsel acting for Saddam Hussein questioned her.

She had been held in the infamous Abu Ghraib prison, he said, where he agreed that conditions had been terrible until just recently.

But had dogs been used against her? Were photographs taken of her? No, she said.

By reminding the court, and the wider audience in Iraq, of the way prisoners in Abu Ghraib were treated by their American gaolers after the invasion of Iraq, the defence managed to weaken the force of the case against Saddam Hussein.

Unintelligible

None of this will presumably affect the eventual outcome.

But this trial has not so far become the overwhelming condemnation of Saddam's regime that might have been expected.

Judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin
Judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin had to deal with a boisterous Saddam

The next witness, an elderly woman, went into the curtained booth to give her evidence.

There was an objection that Witness B's voice, also disguised electronically, was unintelligible, so she was brought into the middle of the court to speak.

But after that the curtains were drawn in front of the press box so she couldn't be seen and identified, and the sound feed was cut off.

Cross-examination

Other witnesses gave evidence about the events of the day in 1982 when Saddam came to the town of Dujail and the assassination attempt on him was carried out.

The evidence was vague and inconclusive, but it aroused the anger of Saddam Hussein and his aggressive half-brother Barzan al-Tikriti.

"Those people know nothing," Barzan shouted at one point.

Saddam, by contrast, was inclined to go in for long, rambling statements which the chief judge didn't check.

At one point he tried to catch out a witness who was arrested in Dujail.

"Who arrested you?" Saddam asked.

"Men from Intelligence."

"How do you know?"

"They said so."

"What were their names?"

The witness gave the names.

"Describe them."

The witness proceeded to do it.

"How come you remember all these things" Saddam asked, irritably.

"This was a great sadness to me," said the witness. "I can't forget a sadness."

There were no more questions after that.


RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific