Former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein returned to the stand on Monday on charges of war crimes and genocide for his attack on Iraq's Kurdish communities in 1987-1988, in which tens of thousands of people were killed. Saddam reportedly dismissed the US-backed tribunal, calling it a "court of occupation," and refusing to state his name, according to Reuters. When the judge, presiding judge, Abdallah al-Ameri, asked Saddam to identify himself in court, he responded by saying, "You know me," said the AP.
The former leader also refused to enter a plea at the trial, forcing judge al-Ameri to enter a not guilty plea on his behalf. Saddam is accused by survivors of having used mustard gas and nerve agents in the offensive, which sought to weakening independent-minded Kurdish communities near the Iraq-Iran border, according to the AP, who Saddam claimed were aiding Iran in its war with Iraq. Monday's trial, however, will not address the notorious gassing of the Kurdish town of Halabja, in which some 5,000 Kurds were reportedly killed. The Halabja attack is instead being investigated separately by the Iraqi High Tribunal.
Some express doubt over court's impartiality
Many have voiced criticism of how charges against Saddam have been handled, as the first trial was inappropriately lengthy and chaotic, with three defense attorneys killed and other fleeing Iraq for safety. Additionally, the trial's original chief judge resigned from his post in protest of what he described as undue government interference in the trial.
Last week, Human Rights Watch charged that the Iraqi High Tribunal was incapable of fairly trying the former leader for the Dujail attack. Monday's trial is the leader's second, as Saddam and seven others defendants await a verdict from previous charges of the killing of at least 148 Shiite Muslims from the Iraqi town of Dujail following an assassination attempt on Saddam in 1982.
If charged, Saddam and his co-defendants could face the death penalty.