Former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein brushed aside a Kurdish villager's account yesterday of an alleged massacre, saying there was no proof, as he returned to court two days after being condemned to hang in a separate trial.
The former president was sentenced to death on Sunday for committing crimes against humanity by ordering the deaths of 148 Shiites from the village of Dujail, north of Baghdad, after a 1982 assassination attempt.
Yesterday, with a smile on his face and wearing his trademark dark business suit, a composed Saddam walked in to the court and quietly took his seat, even as his defense team continued its boycott of the Kurdish genocide trial.
The chief judge in the genocide trial, Mohammed al-Oreibi al-Khalifa, quickly opened the 21st session by summoning the day's first Kurdish witness, Qahar Khalil Mohammed.
Mohammed gave a gripping account of how dozens of Iraqi Kurds, including 18 of his relatives, were gunned down by Saddam's forces in 1988 in a northern village.
He said an Iraqi army officer, swearing on the Koran, had assured the villagers that no harm would come to them if they surrendered and they would be offered amnesty by Saddam.
"Trusting the officer, we surrendered," he said.
"They led us out of the village, separated men from the women and children. A total of 37 men were separated, including myself," Mohammed said.
He said the officer later lined up the men and ordered the soldiers to fire at them.
"We all fell to the ground. When the first magazine was emptied, they began reloading with a second magazine and then a third magazine," Mohammed said.
The officer later told the soldiers to "shoot everyone with a bullet. A soldier hit me on my forehead," the witness told the judge, lifting his turban to reveal a deep scar on his forehead.
He was also shot in the back. The witness showed his back to a court-appointed defense lawyer who demanded to see his bullet wounds.
"I want the whole world to see my wounds," Mohammed said.
After the soldiers left, he saw that his father and two brothers were among 18 relatives who had been killed. A total of 33 villagers died in the massacre, he said.
"I found Hashim, my nephew, still alive. I held his hand and we fled," he said.
He and a number of others were later caught by the army and held in a detention camp, where a doctor "put a screwdriver in the wounded leg of one of the villagers," Mohammed added.
The witness was held for three years in the camp and later released under an amnesty.
Dozens of Kurdish witnesses have given similar chilling accounts in previous sessions of how Saddam's forces swept through their villages in 1988, killing thousands in chemical gas attacks and razing their homes to the ground.
Saddam heard the entire testimony quietly and later stood up in the dock to reject it.
"There is nobody to check this testimony. Who supports his claim? Nobody," he said.
"Will that way lead us to the truth?" the deposed dictator asked, without mentioning the Dujail case.
Saddam faces a second death penalty if convicted in the Anfal trial, unless the Dujail hanging sentence is carried out before the Kurdish case winds up. He is the only common accused in both trials.
Saddam's disbanded Baath party, meanwhile, threatened to attack the heavily-protected "Green Zone" in Baghdad if the death sentence for Dujail is carried out, in an Internet statement posted yesterday.