Genocide Charges Against Saddam Dropped

Former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, front left, listens to testimony during his trial inside the heavily fortified Green Zone Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2006 in Baghdad, Iraq. AP Photo

Saddam Hussein's trial for the killing of 180,000 Kurds in the 1980s resumed Monday with the late dictator's seat empty, nine days after he went to the gallows. The court's first order of business was to drop all charges against Saddam.

Six co-defendants still face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity stemming from a military campaign code-named Operation Anfal during the 1980-88 Iraq-Iran war.

Shortly after the court reconvened Monday, a bailiff called out the names of the accused and the six men walked silently into the courtroom one after another.

Chief Judge Mohammed Oreibi al-Khalifa said the court decided to stop all legal action against the former president, since "the death of defendant Saddam was confirmed."

All seven defendants in the Anfal case, including Saddam, had pleaded innocent to charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Saddam and one other man also pleaded innocent to the additional charge of genocide.

Saddam was sentenced to death for the killing of 148 Shiites and hanged on Dec. 30 in a chaotic execution that has drawn global criticism for the Shiite-dominated government. An illicit video from inside the former leader's execution chamber showed him being taunted on the gallows.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair believed the manner in which Saddam was executed was "completely wrong," his office said Sunday.

"He believes that the manner of the execution was completely wrong, but that should not lead us to forget the crimes that Saddam Hussein committed, including the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis," a spokeswoman for Blair's office said on condition of anonymity in line with policy.

Human Rights Watch said Saddam's speedy execution illustrated the Iraqi government's disregard for human rights, and urged Iraqi officials to halt two upcoming hangings.

"The tribunal repeatedly showed its disregard for the fundamental due process rights of all of the defendants," said Richard Dicker, director of Human Rights Watch's International Justice Program.

In other developments:

  • A new video of Saddam Hussein's corpse, with a gaping neck wound, was posted on the Internet early Tuesday. The video, which appeared to have been taken with a camera phone, pans up the shrouded body of the former leader from the feet. It apparently was taken shortly after Saddam was hanged and placed on a gurney. As the panning shot reaches the head region, the white shroud is pulled back and reveals Saddam's head and neck. His head is unnaturally twisted at a 90 degree angle to his right.

  • The U.S. military reported the deaths of two American soldiers north of Baghdad. A Task Force Lightning soldier based out of Fort Hood, Texas, died Sunday of wounds from combat operations in the Salahuddin province, and another soldier died from small arms fire while guarding engineers repairing a highway north of the capital, the military said.

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said newly empowered Democrats will not give President Bush a blank check to wage war in Iraq, hinting they could deny funding if he seeks additional troops. "If the president chooses to escalate the war, in his budget request, we want to see a distinction between what is there to support the troops who are there now," she said in an exclusive interview on Face The Nation.

  • Gunmen attacked a bus full of workers en route to Baghdad's airport, showering them with bullets. At least 11 people were wounded in the attack, a hospital paramedic said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters. The victims were mainly Shiite Muslims from Baghdad's Sadr City neighborhood, and were attacked before reaching the main checkpoint at the airport's entrance, the official said.

  • Six bodies were discovered in the primarily Sunni neighborhood of Dora in southern Baghdad, police said. They were a father and his three sons, and a mother and her son, who had been returning to Baghdad from relatives' funerals in Najaf, a police officer said on condition of anonymity out of security concerns.

    Saddam's half brother and former intelligence chief, Barzan Ibrahim, and former head of Iraq's Revolutionary Court, Awad Hamed al-Bandar, were sentenced to death after being found guilty along with Saddam of involvement in the killings in the town of Dujail after a 1982 assassination attempt there against Saddam.

    Their executions were postponed, however, until after the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, which ended six days ago. They were expected in the coming days, though Jaafar al-Mousawi, the chief prosecutor in the separate Dujail case, said the timing would "be determined by the government."

    Sami al-Askari, an adviser to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, declined to give reasons for the delay and said only that "no date has been made yet" for al-Bandar and Ibrahim's hangings.

    The six remaining defendants in the Anfal case — all senior members of Saddam's ousted regime — include his cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as "Chemical Ali" for his alleged use of chemical weapons against Iraqi Kurds.

    As al-Majid took his seat in court Monday, he tried to turn on his microphone to speak publicly. The judge quickly shut it off, preventing him from being heard.

    The other defendants are former Defense Minister Sultan Hashim al-Tai, who was the commander of Task Force Anfal and head of the Iraqi army 1st Corps; Sabir al-Douri, Saddam's military intelligence chief; Taher Tawfiq al-Ani, former governor of Mosul and head of the Northern Affairs Committee; Hussein Rashid Mohammed, former deputy director of operations for the Iraqi Armed Forces and Farhan Mutlaq Saleh, former head of military intelligence's eastern regional office.

    In Monday's session, prosecutor Munqith al-Faroon presented a document allegedly signed by al-Ani, calling for the execution of 10 members of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the party headed by current Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.

    The prosecutor also aired a video showing the aftermath of chemical weapons attacks on Kurdish areas, with dozens of dead men, women and children. Accompanying audio allegedly contained the voice of al-Majid saying "I will hit them with chemical (weapons)."

    Another audiotape was played for the court, allegedly with Saddam saying, "These weapons are only used at my orders."
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      Scott Conroy is a National Political Reporter for RealClearPolitics and a contributor for CBS News.

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