Back in the dock just 48 hours after being condemned to death for crimes against humanity, former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein made an unlikely appeal for national reconciliation on Tuesday as his trial for genocide against the Kurds resumed in Baghdad.
"I call on all Iraqis, Arabs and Kurds, to forgive, reconcile and shake hands," Saddam said, as he again used his time in court to address the wider Iraqi public.
Both the prophet Mohammed and Jesus had forgiven their enemies, he added.
Sunday's verdict in the Dujail trial had brought into stark focus the deepening fissures among Iraq's main communities and there were fears that it would lead to fresh spasms of violence. Shia Arabs and Kurds, who suffered disproportionately under Saddam, largely welcomed the ruling, but many Sunni Arabs reacted with dismay.
Also with the goal of reconciliation apparently in mind, the interior ministry said yesterday that it had charged nearly 100 policemen, including 19 senior officers, for "negligence, corruption and abuse of detainees" at the Site 4 prison in Baghdad. An interior ministry source said those charged included "several brigadier generals" and that further prosecutions of officers in other cases were in the offing.
The interior ministry, dominated by the ruling Shia parties, is suspected of operating death squads and torture centers that target mostly Sunni Arabs.
The source said that the charges, believed to be the first against interior ministry officials, "are about restoring public confidence and accountability in the police."
Saddam's fate is now in the hands of the appeal judges, who are expected to deliver their verdict in January. If the death penalty is upheld, he must be hanged within 30 days.
Saddam attended yesterday's session inside the heavily fortified courtroom in the Green Zone. Kurdish witnesses testified about an alleged massacre of 30 Kurdish men by Iraqi security forces in August 1998 after they had surrendered on news of an amnesty offer from Saddam.
Saddam and six co-defendants, including his cousin Ai Hassan al Majid, also known as "Chemical Ali," are charged with genocide for their alleged role in the deaths of at least 50,000 Kurdish civilians, as well as crimes against humanity for the destruction of Kurdish villages and the forced deportation of their inhabitants, during the "Anfal" operations of 1988.