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Saddam's Genocide Trial Enters Second Day

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Saddam's Genocide Trial Enters Second Day

Iraq

Saddam's Genocide Trial Enters Second Day

Saddam's Genocide Trial Enters Second Day

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/5690029/5690030" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein at trial on Tuesday in Baghdad. Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein at trial on Tuesday in Baghdad.

Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

Saddam Hussein's second trial on charges of genocide enters its second day. The former Iraqi dictator stands accused of killing tens of thousands of Kurds in northern Iraq during the 1980s in a calculated plan to eliminate opponents to his regime.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

From NPR West, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.

There was riveting testimony on day two of the Saddam Hussein trial in Baghdad today. Saddam is on trial for genocide, accused of authorizing attacks that wiped out tens of thousands of Kurds in the late 1980s.

In a moment, we'll hear from the American diplomat who uncovered evidence of the Kurdish genocide.

But first, NPR's Corey Flintoff joins me from the Iraqi capital where he's been following the Saddam trial.

And Corey, tell us about this testimony in court today.

COREY FLINTOFF reporting:

It was very vivid. They had two Kurdish witnesses who described their villages being bombed with poison gas during the Anfal campaign.

But one man, his name was Ali Mustafah Hama(ph), said planes dropped bombs that just were sort of oddly muffled and that they spread a greenish foul smelling gas that burned people's eyes and made them throw up.

He said he saw a newborn baby die on the spot from the gas. He said people ran for the hills, but they were later rounded up by Iraqi soldiers who burned their village. He took one of the Iraqis who interrogated him, accused him of being a rebel, and threatened to torture him.

The second witness was a 41-year-old Kurdish woman who listed family members and friends and neighbors she said were all killed by poison gas.

BRAND: And how did the defense respond to that testimony?

FLINTOFF: Well, they've done as much as they can to undermine the witnesses. One defense lawyer asked the man how he knew that the planes that attacked his village were Iraqi and not Iranian, because this of course was in the middle of the Iran-Iraq war. And the man said that they were Iraqi and - in his words -they were the same planes that always bombed us.

He did admit though that Kurdish Peshmerga guerrillas used his village. They used to visit from time to time to get food and blankets.

The military men among the defendants argued that Iraq was at war at the time, not only with Iran but with these Kurdish Peshmerga fighters who were supporting Iran. They said there was never any intention to target Kurdish civilians, only the Peshmerga fighters.

BRAND: And Corey, this trial is a much larger trial than Saddam's first trial, much larger in scale and scope. The first trial is still ongoing. How long is the second trial expected to last?

FLINTOFF: Well, the chief prosecutor told us yesterday evening that he expects to call about 70 complainants and witnesses. Apparently, the complainants are people who will tell their stories as the two Kurdish people did today. And witnesses are people who testify on certain facts.

You know, at this rate, the trial could take a long time. American legal advisors have told us that the process has been streamlined from last time, that they think the prosecution's case could be done by December.

BRAND: NPR's Corey Flintoff in Baghdad.

Thank you, Corey.

FLINTOFF: You're welcome, Madeleine.

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