IMAGE: Saddam Hussein in court
David Furst  /  Pool via AFP - Getty Images
Ousted Iraqi president Saddam Hussein reads the Quran as he listens to witness testimony during his trial in Baghdad on Monday.
updated 10/9/2006 10:26:09 AM ET 2006-10-09T14:26:09

Prison guards under Saddam Hussein used to bury detainees alive and watch women as they bathed, occasionally shooting over their heads, a former female prisoner testified Monday in the genocide trial of the ex-president.

Speaking in Kurdish through an Arabic interpreter, the 31-year-old witness recalled what she saw as a 13-year-old girl who was detained during Saddam’s offensive against the Kurds in the late 1980s.

Saddam and his co-defendants are charged with genocide against Iraq’s Kurdish population in a campaign branded Operation Anfal, in which an estimated 180,000 people were killed. If convicted, the accused could be condemned to death by hanging.

The woman, who testified behind a curtain and whose name was withheld apparently for fear of reprisal, said Iraqi government forces destroyed her Kurdish village in northern Iraq in 1988 and she and some family members were imprisoned in the south.

A prison warden she identified as Hajaj — whose name has been given by earlier witnesses in the trial — “used to drag women, their hands and feet shackled, and leave them in a scorching sun for several hours.”

“Soldiers used to watch us bathe,” said the woman. The guards also fired over the women’s heads as they washed.

The woman said several relatives disappeared during the offensive against the Kurds. “I know the fate of my family (members). They were buried alive,” she testified.

Unusually quiet session
The prosecution presented the court with documents showing that remains of the women’s relatives turned up in a mass grave.

“I’d like to ask Saddam: ’What crime did women and children commit’?” the woman said in court.

Saddam and his six co-defendants sat quietly in court Monday when their trial resumed after a 12-day break. They were not represented by lawyers.

Chief Judge Mohammed Oreibi al-Khalifa had declared a recess after a stormy session on Sept. 26 in which Saddam and his co-defendants were thrown out of court. The judge said then he wanted to give the defendants time to persuade their lawyers to end their boycott of the trial, or to confer with new ones.

On Sunday, Saddam’s chief lawyer said he and his team would continue to boycott the trial to protest the removal of the first chief judge and the court’s refusal to give the attorneys time to examine thousands of documents.

Lawyer Khalil al-Dulaimi said the decision to continue the boycott was made after he met with Saddam on Oct. 2 and because of “repeated violations by the court.”

A second witness, 41-year-old farmer Abdul-Hadi Abdullah Mohammed, told the court Monday his mother had died in detention and several other family members went missing in 1988 and were presumed dead. “The fate of my family is still unknown up to now,” he said.

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