Saddam claims he was 'beaten by Americans'
Updated: 2005-12-22 06:53
Saddam Hussein again grabbed center stage at his mass murder trial Wednesday,
suddenly standing up and surprising the courtroom with claims that he and other
defendants were "beaten by Americans."
leader's lengthy complaint came after witnesses graphically described how their
captors administered electric shocks and used molten plastic to rip the skin off
prisoners in a crackdown following an assassination attempt against Saddam in
Saddam Hussein speaks at his trial in Baghdad
Wednesday Dec. 21, 2005. [AP]
A U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad called Saddam's allegations "completely
unfounded" but said "we are prepared to investigate."
"Beyond that, we have no interest in being a part of what are clearly
courtroom antics aimed at disrupting the legal process," said Lt. Col. Barry
The trial's chief prosecutor, Jaafar al-Mousawi, said if authorities found
evidence of abuse Saddam could be transferred to the physical custody of Iraqi
The former Iraqi leader and seven co-defendants are on trial for the deaths
of more than 140 Shiites after the attempt on Saddam's life in the town of
Dujail, north of Baghdad.
The prosecution's first witness Wednesday testified about killings and
torture in Dujail. Ali Hassan Mohammed al-Haidari, who was 14 in 1982, said
Saddam's regime executed seven of his brothers.
Al-Haidari said that he and other residents from Dujail ¡ª including family
members ¡ª 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.
Two witnesses later testified from behind a curtain. One of them, identified
only as Witness No. 2, said security officials "attached clamps to my thumbs and
toes and private areas and tortured me with electricity until foam came out of
After sitting quietly through several hours of testimony, Saddam launched
into an extended monologue, saying he'd been beaten "everywhere on my body. The
marks are still there." He did not display any marks.
"I want to say here, yes, we have been beaten by the Americans and we have
been tortured," Saddam told the court before gesturing toward his seven
co-defendants, "one by one."
With the trial televised across Iraq, his claims of torture at the hands of
U.S. troops may resonate with Iraqis who have been shocked by the abuse of
detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison, a scandal which led to the convictions of
nine Army reservists. More recently, U.S. troops discovered abused prisoners at
secret detention centers run by the Iraqi Interior Ministry.
Saddam had been defiant and combative during previous sessions of the trial,
often trying to dominate the courtroom. He and his half brother Barazan Ibrahim,
who was head of the Iraqi intelligence during the Dujail crackdown, have used
the procedures to protest their own conditions in detention.
The ousted president had refused to attend the previous session on Dec. 7. "I
will not come to an unjust court! Go to hell!" he said in an outburst in court
the day before.
Earlier Wednesday before his accusations of torture, Saddam's behavior had
been calmer, and he appeared clean-shaven and in fresh clothes, wearing a dark
suit but no tie. On some previous occasions during the trial, Saddam appeared
disheveled and complained about being held in unsanitary conditions.
Saddam stood in the fenced-in defendant's area and occasionally jabbed his
finger toward the judge and prosecutor during his discourse Wednesday. He tried
to refute witness statements and complained at length about the conditions of
his detention, engaging in a debate with the chief prosecutor. Some of the
exchange was edited out of the television broadcast.
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.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack called it "highly ironic" that
Saddam would accuse his jailers of mistreatment.
"I know of nothing that would substantiate such a claim," McCormack said.
"Look, he's been given to grandstanding in this trial, but where the focus
should be is on the testimony of those people who were victimized by the
tyranny, the oppression and the violence of Saddam Hussein. That's what people
should be listening to."
According to the Pentagon, the Iraqi government has legal custody and control
of Saddam, while U.S. forces maintain his physical custody in a detention
Inside the courtroom, the judge struggled, sometimes unsuccessfully, to
maintain order as the procedures at times seemed to slip out of control.
Ibrahim insulted witnesses, calling one a "dog." He also launched rambling
diatribes and menacingly wagged his finger at prosecutors and court guards.
Saddam also interrupted al-Haidari's testimony to ask the judge if the court
could take a break for prayer. Although the witness agreed, the judge ordered
the trial to continue. About 10 minutes later, Saddam swung to the left, closed
his eyes and repeatedly bowed his head in prayer, the first time he has done
that in court.
"Even if any of you doesn't pray, the constitution of the state, be it the
one signed by Saddam Hussein or the constitution that was dictated to the Iraqis
by the American adviser, states that Islam is the religion of the state. I
alerted you twice that it was time for prayers, but you ignored me."
"I didn't ignore you," the judge responded.
"How can you put God on hold?" Saddam asked.
Muslims are required to pray five days a day at specific times.
In the 1980's, Iraq under Saddam was one of the most secular Arab states in
the Middle East and Baghdad had some of the most vibrant nightlife in the
Following Operation Desert Storm in 1991 and as U.N.-imposed sanctions ground
down the Iraqi economy, Saddam outwardly became more pious. He was seen praying
and launching campaigns to reinforce the faith. Bars were restricted and
nightlife became more muted.
Critics said his praying in court was a further effort to reach out to
increasingly conservative Iraqis.
"Those who know Saddam well will not be duped by these scenarios. He kept
trying hard to affect Iraqis emotionally and religiously and trying to deliver a
message that he is a victim and not a tyrant," said Mariam al-Rayes, a Shiite