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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 September 2006, 18:22 GMT 19:22 UK
Judge replaced in Saddam's trial
Trial judge Abdullah al-Amiri
Mr Amiri has avoided confrontation with the defendants
The judge in charge of Saddam Hussein's genocide trial has been replaced, the Iraqi prime minister's office said.

Earlier, the government said it had asked the court to sack Chief Judge Abdullah al-Amiri accusing him of losing his "neutrality".

Last Thursday, Mr Amiri sparked controversy by saying the ex-leader had not been a dictator.

There has been no confirmation from the court. In Saddam's first war crimes trial the judge also stepped down.

"We have asked the court to replace the judge because he has lost his neutrality," government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh told Reuters.

"The court told us he has already been replaced. This was a decision by the cabinet of the prime minister."

Bias charge

Chief Prosecutor Munqith al-Faroon called for the judge to stand down last Wednesday, saying he is biased towards the former Iraqi leader.

Mr Faroon said defendants had been given too much room to threaten witnesses and make political speeches.

Mr Amiri rejected the request, saying his approach was based on fairness and 25 years' experience.

A day later he intervened on Saddam Hussein's behalf to say the former Iraqi leader had not been a dictator, but had only been made to seem like one by his aides.

Correspondents say the latest change could revive complaints the government is interfering in trials of former regime members to ensure a quick guilty verdict.

Saddam Hussein and six others are on trial for war crimes during the so-called Anfal campaign in which up to 180,000 Kurdish civilians died in the late 1980s.

Saddam Hussein and his cousin, Ali Hassan al-Majid, popularly known in Iraq as Chemical Ali, face additional charges of genocide.

Chemical attack

In Tuesday's testimony, further survivors of the Anfal campaign recounted chemical attacks by the Iraqi military on their villages.

Witness Iskandar Mahmoud Abdul Rahman said an attack on his village began when Iraqi aircraft flew over on 20 March 1988.

"We took the floor; white smoke covered us, it smelled awful. My heartbeat increased. I started to vomit. I felt dizzy. My eyes burned and I couldn't stand on my feet," Mr Abdul Rahman said.

He said he escaped to Iran where doctors treated him with injections and medication, including eye drops.

"They cut the burned skin with scissors. I can show the court my scars that are still visible on my body," he said.

Off camera, but in the presence of court reporters, Mr Abdul Rahman then removed his blue shirt to show several dark scars on his back.

Two other witnesses also testified, repeating allegations of abuse suffered during the crackdown.


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