Wednesday, March 01, 2006
By BASSEM MROUE, Associated Press Writer -- Wednesday, 14 minutes ago
BAGHDAD, Iraq - said in a defiant courtroom confession Wednesday that he ordered the trial of 148 Shiites who were eventually executed in the 1980s, but he insisted he had the right to do so because they were suspected of trying to kill him.
The dramatic speech came a day after prosecutors presented the most direct evidence against him in the four-month trial: a 1984 presidential decree approving the death sentences for the 148, with a signature said to be Saddam's.
"Where is the crime? Where is the crime?" Saddam asked. "If trying a suspect accused of shooting at a head of state -- no matter what his name is -- is considered a crime, then you have the head of state in your hands. Try him."
Saddam did not admit or deny approving their executions, but stated outright that he was solely responsible for their prosecution, adding that his seven co-defendants should be released.
"If the chief figure makes thing easy for you by saying he was the one responsible, then why are you going after these people?" he said.
The deaths of the Shiites are one of the main charges against the defendants, who could face execution by hanging -- the same fate as most of the 148 -- if convicted.
They are on trial also for torture and imprisonment of the Shiites, as well as the razing of their farmlands, in a crackdown launched after a July 8, 1982 assassination attempt against Saddam in the town of Dujail.
The prosecution has argued the imprisonment and executions were illegal, saying the 148 were sentenced to death in an "imaginary trial" before Saddam's Revolutionary Court where the defendants did not even appear.
The crackdown, they argue, went far beyond the actual attackers. They have presented documents that show entire families -- including women and children as young as 3 months old -- were arrested, tortured and held for years. Those executed included at least 10 juveniles, one as young as 11, according to the documents.
Dave Haigler, Abilene, Texas
lawfirm webpage: www.haigler.info
political blog: http://demlog.blogspot.com
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