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Saddam Witnesses Tell Of Torture

A woman witness testified Tuesday from behind a screen, with her voice disguised to protect her identity, weeping as she told of beatings and electric shocks at the hands of Saddam Hussein's agents in the trial of the former president and seven lieutenants.

Saddam sat stone-faced, taking notes on a pad of paper, as the woman, known only as "Witness A," told the court how she and dozens of other families from the town of Dujail were arrested in a crackdown after a 1982 assassination attempt against Saddam.

"I was forced to take off my clothes, and he raised my legs up and tied up my hands. He continued administering electric shocks and beating me," she said of her detention, referring to Wadah al-Sheik, an Iraqi intelligence officer who died of cancer last month.

Several times, the woman — hidden behind a light blue curtain — broke down in tears. "God is great. Oh, my Lord," she moaned, her voice electronically deepened and distorted to further disguise her identity.

A second woman then testified, reports CBS News correspondent Cami McCormick. Before the microphones were shut off, she said she, her five daughters, her husband and son were all taken into custody.

In other recent developments:

  • Two men strapped with explosives blew themselves up in a classroom filled with students at Baghdad's police academy on Tuesday, killing 27 people and wounding 32, the U.S. military said. Initial reports had said the bombers were women.
  • Al-Jazeera television on Tuesday broadcast an Iraqi insurgent video that purported to show a kidnapped U.S. security consultant. "In the video, you can see a blond, Western-looking man, sitting down with his hands tied behind his back," reports CBS News correspondent Kimberly Dozier. "There's a logo from the Islamic Army of Iraq, one of the many insurgent groups operating here. There's also a picture of an American passport, and an Arabic identity card bearing a name in English saying 'Ronald Schultz.'"
  • If the report about the American abducted is true, the man would become the second American taken hostage in the last two weeks. A U.S. citizen was among four peace activists taken hostage on Nov. 27 by a group calling itself the Swords of Righteousness.
  • A French engineer was taken hostage in Baghdad on Monday and a German aid worker was abducted near Mosul on Nov. 26.

    Saddam told the judge Americans are here for two reasons. to stay in Iraq and stage a show trial. He yelled "this is your history" to the judge, reports McCormick. He said "Americans want to execute Saddam and this is not the first time." He also said he wants Americans to know the crimes their government has committed against his country.

    Part of the defense strategy is to put the Coalition and Iraq on trial, reports Dozier, but it seems whenever there is something politically sensitive being raised that the judge has the right to declare a closed session.

    The defendants were better behaved after warnings from the chief judge than Monday's outbursts, shouting at witnesses and spitting in the gallery would not be tolerated.

    "As the victims from Dujail testify as witnesses, the enormity of the crimes comes to light," says CBS News Foreign Affairs Analyst Pamela Falk. "Although the legal impact of the witness testimony may be limited, they are part of the prosecution's need to establish the enormity of the atrocities committed against civilians."

  • The first woman witness strongly suggested she had been raped, but did not say so outright. When Chief Judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin asked her about the "assault," she said: "I was beaten up and tortured by electrical shocks."

    The witness, who was 16 at the time of her arrest, repeated that she had been ordered to undress.

    "I begged them, but they hit with their pistols," she said. "They made me put my legs up. There were five or more, and they treated me like a banquet."

    "Is that what happens to the virtuous woman that Saddam speaks about?" she wept, prompting the judge to advise her to stick to the facts.

    The measures taken to preserve the woman's anonymity complicated the testimony. At first, defense attorneys complained they could not hear her because of the voice distortion. The judge then ordered the voice modulator shut off, but then the audience could not hear at all, so Amin ordered a recess, and the modulator was fixed, allowing the press and audience to hear.

    Defense attorneys insisted on questioning the witness face to face and demanded that the defendants should also see her. So after she gave her testimony for over an hour, Amin ordered the session closed to the public, pulling screens in front of the press and visitors gallery and cut the sound.

    A third witness, a man, testified that he and his family were taken from their farm and interrogated, reports McCormick. He was 11 or 12 at the time, and beaten with cables and told to strip.

    After 19 days in Bath, he and his family were taken to the Abu Ghraib prison, where families were separated and people tortured. Many children died there, he said.

    Later they were taken to the desert where they were forced to live for three years.

    The man is also testifying from behind a curtain in the witness box, with his voice altered.

    Witnesses have the option of not having their identities revealed as a security measure to protect them against reprisals by Saddam loyalists. The first two witnesses — both males who took the stand Monday — allowed their names to be announced and their pictures to be transmitted around the world.

    Saddam and seven co-defendants are on trial for the killing of more than 140 Shiites in the town of Dujail north of Baghdad and could be executed by hanging if convicted.

    "We're probably going to see another long adjournment Wednesday or Thursday because the judge needs to free up security resources for next week's elections," reports Dozier. "As this morning's bombing shows, insurgents are trying to increase attacks before those elections, and every U.S. soldier on the ground, every Iraqi soldier on the ground is going to be needed to keep things safe for the polls."

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