Witness alleges Saddam regime trafficked Kurdish women

BAGHDAD (AP) — A witness in Saddam Hussein’s genocide trial testified that the ousted leader’s agents ran a human trafficking ring that sold his sister and other Kurdish women in the 1980s.

Defence lawyers and one of Saddam’s co-defendants on Wednesday immediately challenged the charge as hearsay based on a forged document.

Saddam and six other defendants are on trial on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for their roles in a 1987-88 crackdown on Kurdish fighters. The prosecution says about 180,000 people, mostly civilians, died in the offensive.

Saddam and one other defendant also are charged with genocide in the crackdown, which was code-named Operation Anfal. If convicted, all seven men could be sentenced to death by hanging.

Witness Abdul-Khaliq Qadir presented chief Judge Mohammed Oreibi Khalifa with an account published in an Iraqi Kurdish newspaper of a document purportedly showing the intelligence department in the city of Kirkuk sold 18 women to Egypt’s intelligence service.

The document listed his sister’s name and included women as young as 14, Qadir said.

Defendant Sabir Douri, who headed military intelligence under Saddam, told the judge the purported document misidentified the intelligence service and was clearly a fake.

Earlier in the session, Saddam accused the chief judge of preventing him from defending himself.

“When the accuser and prosecutor talk, the world listens.

When the man called ‘the accused’ speaks, you switch off the microphone. Is this fair?” Saddam told Khalifa.

He was referring to Tuesday’s session when Khalifa switched off Saddam’s microphone after he began shouting a verse from the Holy Koran. When the ex-president refused to stop, the judge threw him out of court.

“You won’t lose anything by listening. This is the duty of a judge,” Saddam said Wednesday, speaking calmly from the dock.

The judge replied that he had cut Saddam’s microphone to “bring order to the courtroom.” “Clearly you wanted to give a speech when you started reciting a verse from the holy book,” Khalifa said.

“You can talk if you want to defend yourself, but not to get into the political labyrinth.” Tuesday’s raucous session was the fourth time Khalifa had ejected Saddam from the court since he became chief judge September 20. He also ejected the other six defendants that day, but they were in court again Wednesday.

Defendant Hussein Rashid Mohammed protested to the judge that a bailiff beat him Tuesday.

“You say the court is Iraqi. Is it acceptable that a defendant is hit and sworn at in front of the judge?” asked the former army commander, who had punched a bailiff who forced him back into his seat Tuesday.

“Everyone in this court is under my protection,” Khalifa responded.

Another witness provided testimony Wednesday that was contradicted on at least two points. Razu Papapaya told the court her husband went missing after an attack on her village 18 years ago.

Douri, the former intelligence chief, told the court that documents show she told interrogators earlier that her husband, a Kurdish fighter, died battling Iraqi forces. The trial was adjourned until Tuesday.

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