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Saddam Claims Americans Beat Him

Saddam Hussein accused his American captors of torturing him, claiming at his trial Wednesday that he had been beaten "everywhere on my body." A Shiite witness testified that the former Iraqi leader's agents had tortured people by ripping off their skin.

The trial later adjourned until Thursday.

As he has done in the past, Saddam sought to divert attention from the testimony of witnesses — often emotional, describing their abuse at the hands of his security forces — by focusing instead on himself, reports CBS News correspondent Cami McCormick. In an outburst, he accused his American captors of abusing and torturing him. He insisted he had been beaten everywhere on his body.

The trial's chief prosecutor said that if American-led multinational forces had abused Saddam, he would be transferred into the custody of Iraqi troops. The prosecutor, Jaafar al-Mousawi, said he would investigate.

A U.S. State Department spokesman in Washington said he'd seen no evidence of mistreatment.

"He's been given to grandstanding in this trial," said Sean McCormack. "I find it highly ironic, but I know of nothing that would substantiate such a claim."

In other developments:

  • Iraq's Electoral Commission also announced that preliminary results showed that about 70 percent of the country's 15.5 million registered voters took part in last week's election for a new parliament.
  • Representatives of Sunni Arab parties met in the office of a secular Shiite group to consider uniting to demand an investigation into preliminary election results showing the governing Shiite religious bloc with a larger than expected lead.
  • U.S. forces are providing protection for most of a group of top officials from Saddam Hussein's government who were recently released from custody, an Iraqi lawyer said Wednesday. No charges were filed against them, and they included Rihab Taha, who was known as "Dr. Germ" for her role in making bio-weapons for Saddam's regime in the 1980s.

    Saddam and seven co-defendants are on trial for the deaths of more than 140 Shiite Muslims following a 1982 assassination attempt against him in the town of Dujail, north of Baghdad.

    "I want to say here, yes, we have been beaten by the Americans and we have been tortured," Saddam responded, before gesturing toward his seven co-defendants, "one by one."

    During the outburst, Saddam stood in the fenced-in defendant's area and occasionally jabbed his finger toward the judge and prosecutor. He refuted witness statements and complained at length about the conditions of his detention, engaging in a debate with al-Mousawi. Some of the exchange was edited out of the televised feed.

    Saddam also told the court that he knew the name of the person who betrayed his hiding place when U.S. forces found him in December 2003. A co-defendant, Taha Yassin Ramadan, a former vice president, said an American translator of Arab origin used to smuggle him tea and bread.

    After a recess, Saddam again calmly sat in his defendant's chair, fanning his face with a sheet of paper.

    Earlier, Saddam sat quietly as a witness testified that his regime killed and tortured people by administering electric shocks and ripping off their skin after pouring molten plastic on it.

    Two weeks ago, Saddam had called the court "unjust" and did not appear at a session.

    The prosecution's first witness Wednesday was a man who testified about killings and torture in Dujail following the assassination attempt. Ali Hassan Mohammed al-Haidari, who was 14 in 1982, started off by quoting from the Quran, the Islamic holy book, about how evil would be defeated.

  • The judge, in an apparent early bid to take control of a courtroom that has often been unruly, told the witness to address the court and not Saddam directly.

    Al-Haidari, whose brother was the first witness at Saddam's trial, testified that seven of his brothers were executed by Saddam's regime and their bodies have not been found.

    Al-Haidari said that he and other residents from Dujail — including family members — were taken to Baghdad and thrown into a security services prison, where people from "9 to 90" were held.

    Blood poured from head wounds and skin was pale from electric shocks, he testified. Security officials would drip melted plastic hoses on detainees, only to pull it off after it cooled, tearing skin off with it, he said.

    "I cannot express all that suffering and pain we faced in the 70 days inside," he said.

    The Dujail case is the first of up to a dozen that prosecutors plan to bring against Saddam and his Baath Party inner circle for atrocities during their 23-year rule.

    The Electoral Commission said 10,893,413 of Iraq's 15,556,8702 registered voters cast ballots, a turnout of 69.97 percent. Of the votes cast, 10,716,505 were valid at 29,437 polling stations.

    The Jan. 30 elections saw a turnout of 58 percent, while 63 percent participated in the Oct. 15 constitutional referendum.

    The commission said the results did not include results from early voting on Dec. 12 for soldiers, hospital patients and prisoners. It also did not include the overseas vote.

    According to the results, which still need to be certified, the highest turnout was in the predominantly Sunni Arab province of Salahuddin which had a turnout of 88.3 percent. The lowest was recorded in western Anbar, the restive Sunni Arab province that is considered to be the heartland of the insurgency.

    Baghdad province, where Sunni Arab parties have disputed the results, had a turnout of 63.39 percent.

    The results showed the governing Shiite grouping, the United Iraqi Alliance, winning strong majorities not only in Baghdad but in the largely Shiite southern provinces. Sunni Arabs turned out in large numbers, unlike January's balloting, which most had boycotted.

    Despite the lead, the Shiite religious bloc will likely fall short of the 184 seats necessary to chose a new president, the first step needed to form a government, and will have to find a coalition partner in the 275-member parliament.

    Sunni Arabs charged Tuesday that the elections were tainted by fraud. Their complaints focused mainly on Baghdad, Iraq's largest electoral district and one that has large numbers of Sunnis and Shiites. Even the Kurds, who are part of the current Shiite-led government, complained of irregularities.

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