WORLD / Middle East

Experts: Saddam signatures on documents
Updated: 2006-04-19 23:40

Handwriting experts authenticated Saddam Hussein's signatures on more documents related to a crackdown on Shiites in the 1980s, the chief judge in his trial said Wednesday. Among the documents was apparently an order approving death sentences for 148 Shiites.

Former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and Abdullah Kadhem Ruaid (rear) listen to prosecutors during their trial held under tight security in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone, April 19, 2006. Saddam returned to court on Wednesday to face charges of crimes against humanity as the prosecution attempted again to tie the ousted president's handwriting to execution orders for 148 people in the 1980s. [Reuters]

Saddam and his seven co-defendants were in the courtroom in the latest session of the trial Wednesday, as chief judge Raouf Abdel-Rahman read a report by handwriting experts on two documents said to be signed by Saddam.

The experts confirmed the signatures were those of the former Iraqi leader, Abdel-Rahman said.

The experts' report did not give details on the documents, but one was dated June 16, 1984. That is the same date of a memo approving the death sentences of the Shiites, presented by prosecutors earlier in the six-month-old trial.

After a session of about three hours, Abdel-Rahman adjourned the trial until Monday to allow experts to look at more documents.

Saddam and his co-defendants are on trial for the deaths of the 148 Shiites and the imprisonment of hundreds of others in a crackdown launched following an assassination attempt against Saddam in the mainly Shiite town of Dujail in 1982.

In a session of the trial Monday, the experts said they had authenticated Saddam's signature on a 1982 memo approving rewards for six intelligence agents involved in the crackdown. They also said signatures on other documents were those of co-defendant Barzan Ibrahim, the former head of the Mukhabarat intelligence agency.

Saddam had refused to confirm or deny his signatures on the documents. Ibrahim and some of the other co-defendants had claimed that their alleged signatures were forged.

The 148 Shiites were tried in 1984 before Saddam's Revolutionary Court for alleged involvement in the assassination attempt and sentenced to death. The defense has argued that the crackdown in Dujail was legal because it was in response to the shooting attack on Saddam.

The prosecution has sought to show that the crackdown went far beyond the perpetrators of the assassination atttempt, with entire families including women and children arrested in the sweep that followed. It says the 148 sentenced to death included minors as young as 11 years old.

In court Wednesday, Ibrahim disputed the handwriting experts' report, calling it a "script directed by (chief prosecutor) Jaafar al-Moussawi to give credibility" to the case.

"The general prosecution is obviously biased and wants to use everything to convict us," Ibrahim said. "I demand a non-biased and non-Iraqi commitee (of handwriting experts) because there is a crisis in trust between us."