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Prosecutor: Saddam Judge Is Biased

The chief prosecutor in Saddam Hussein's genocide trial is accusing the presiding judge of being biased and is demanding that he step down. As that demand was made – two more bombs hit Baghdad, and around town, 65 bodies were found – killed in ways that are usually associated with the work of ethnically-motivated death squads.

At the trial of the former Iraqi president, prosecutor Munqith al-Faroon loudly accused judge Abdullah al-Amiri of being biased toward the deposed leader and his co-defendants, allowing them to use the courtroom as "a political forum."

Saddam has made one outburst after another at his trials and Tuesday thundered against "agents of Iran and Zionism," vowing to "crush your heads" after listening to Kurdish witnesses tell of the horrors committed by the fallen regime two decades ago.

Al-Faroon alleged that al-Amiri was giving Saddam the time to make "political" statements that were irrelevant to the proceedings.

"For instance yesterday, instead of taking legal action (against Saddam), you asked his permission to talk," al-Faroon said.

"The action of the court leans toward the defendants," the prosecutor alleged. He said Saddam treated the witnesses with disrespect.

A Kurdish civil attorney also told the court that Saddam "hurt our feelings" in the statements he made this week.

"His statements are illegal and must be stopped," said the woman, who the court did not immediately identify by name.

Al-Amiri responded by recalling how a Muslim successor to the 7th Century Prophet Muhammad allowed the accused to voice their opinions.

One of the "pillars of the judiciary is to treat everyone equally," al-Amiri said before he ordered proceedings resumed.

Four witnesses told the court Tuesday of mass graves where the bodies of their relatives - who went missing in Operation Anfal - were found two decades later. One witness recalled his effort to survive a chemical attack allegedly carried out by Saddam's forces against the Kurdish population.

Earlier this week, Saddam also accused the Kurdish witnesses of trying to sow ethnic division in Iraq by alleging chemical attacks and mass arrests in their villages during the 1980s crackdown that the prosecution says claimed up to 180,000 lives.

Saddam is among seven defendants charged with genocide and other offenses committed during Operation Anfal, a 1987-88 campaign to suppress a Kurdish revolt in the final stages of an Iraqi war with Iran. Saddam accused the Kurds of helping Iran in the war.

If convicted, Saddam and his co-defendants could face death by hanging.

In other recent developments:

  • Two U.S. soldiers were killed, one by an attack in Anbar province Monday, and the other Tuesday by a roadside bomb south of Baghdad.
  • Police say 65 bodies were found overnight, most in and around Baghdad. The bodies were bound, bore signs of torture and had been shot. Such killings are usually the work of death squads - both Sunni Arab and Shiite - who kidnap people and often torture them with power drills or beat them badly before shooting them. Forty-five of the victims were discovered in predominantly Sunni Arab parts of western Baghdad, and 15 were found in mostly Shiite areas of eastern Baghdad.
  • Two car bombs hit Baghdad – one in a large square used as a parking lot near the city's traffic police, and another that exploded as a police patrol passed by. The bombs killed 27 people and wounded 79 others. At least five of the dead and seven of the wounded are police officers.
  • Two mortar shells landed on al-Rashad police station in southeastern Baghdad, killing a policeman and wounding two others. Another two policemen were killed when two mortar rounds landed near their station in Baghdad's eastern neighborhood of Mashtal. Three others were injured.
  • In Fallujah, two pedestrians were killed and two others injured, apparently in crossfire between U.S. troops and unidentified gunmen in the city's main market.

    Baghdad has been the focus of most of Iraq's violence, and thousands of U.S. and Iraqi forces are taking part in a security crackdown. An average of 51 people a day died violently last month in the capital, according to the Iraqi Health Ministry.

    Some lawmakers squabbled over a resolution demanding a timetable for a U.S. troop withdrawal, and others failed to resolve a deadlock over a Shiite-sponsored bill that Sunni Arabs fear will carve up the country.

    A group of lawmakers tried to capitalize Tuesday on the unpopularity of U.S. troops among many Shiite and Sunni legislators, seeking approval of a resolution setting a timetable for the withdrawal of all foreign troops, which the Shiite-dominated government has so far refused to do.

    Sponsored by supporters of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and some Sunni Arabs, the resolution managed to gather 104 signatures in the 275-member parliament before it was effectively shelved by being sent to a committee for review.

    No headway was made on parliament's most contentious issue since it reconvened last week from summer recess - legislation that will set in place the mechanism for establishing autonomous regions as part of a federal Iraq.

    Sunni Arabs have said the bill could split the country into three distinct sectarian and ethnic cantons and have vehemently opposed it.

    Although federalism is part of Iraq's new constitution, and there is already an autonomous Kurdish region in the north, special legislation and a referendum would be needed to turn Iraq into a full federation.

    Parliament's biggest political bloc, the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance submitted the bill last week. It would be the first step toward creating a separate autonomous state in the predominantly Shiite south, much like the zone run by Kurds in the north.

    Objections from Sunni Arabs and an apparent split among Shiites led leaders to delay the debate until Sept. 19.

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