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Saddam Defense Accuses Witness of Perjury

May 31, 2006

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ Saddam Hussein’s defense team on Wednesday accused a prosecution witness of perjury and demanded the court be halted to allow an investigation into the testimonies of all those the prosecution has brought to the stand during the 7-month-old trial.

The accusation came after the defense played a DVD, which it claimed showed that prosecution witness Ali al-Haidari contradicted the testimony he gave in December about a crackdown against Shiites launched by Saddam’s regime following an attack on the then-Iraqi leader in 1982 in Dujail.

Al-Haidari testified in December that he was arrested at age 14 in the Dujail sweep and was tortured with electrical shocks and beatings.

One of the videos, shown in court Wednesday, included footage of his testimony in which he insisted there was no shooting attack on Saddam in Dujail on July 8, 1982 _ only celebratory shooting to mark the former Iraqi leader’s visit.

The DVD then showed al-Haidari addressing a 2004 ceremony in Dujail and praising the attack on Saddam as an attempt by ``sons of Dujail ... to kill the greatest tyrant in modern history.″

``He’s saying something totally different in this tape, contradicting his testimony,″ defense lawyer Ziyad al-Najdawi told the court. ``This is considered a crime of perjury, and we ask that he be investigated for perjury.″

``Now that it’s been proven that the second witness has given an untrue testimony, we ask that the trial proceedings be stopped to allow for an investigation into the veracity of the other prosecution testimony,″ he said.

Chief prosecutor Jaafar al-Moussawi said al-Haidari’s speech at the ceremony was irrelevant.

``The important thing is his statement that took place before the court under oath. Statements outside the court have no significance. That is customary practice in any justice system,″ he said.

Chief judge Raouf Abdel-Rahman called a 10-minute recess after the DVD was shown. When he returned, he did not immediately rule on the defense’s request.

On Tuesday, a defense witness alleged that al-Moussawi also attended the 2004 Dujail ceremony, claiming this proved the prosecutor was biased and knew al-Haidari’s testimony was false. In the video, a man who resembles al-Moussawi was shown talking to participants at the ceremony _ though the defense did not repeat the charge that it was him Wednesday.

Al-Moussawi said the man in the video was not him, but rather someone who resembles him _ one of the ceremony’s organizers, Abdul-Aziz Mohammed Bandar. After the recess, Bandar was brought into court and said he was the man in the video.

Saddam and his co-defendants face possible execution by hanging if convicted on the charges.

They are accused of arresting hundreds of Dujail families in the crackdown, torturing and killing women and children and killing 148 Shiites who were sentenced to death for the assassination attempt.

The perjury allegation came as the defense _ now in its fourth week of presenting its case _ tried to throw doubt on the foundations of the prosecution case.

A witness Tuesday claimed that 23 of the 148 Shiites sentenced to death by Saddam’s regime were still alive and that he had met some of them in Dujail recently.

Abdel-Rahman ordered an investigation into the witness’ claim.

But defense lawyer Mohammed Munib argued that basic elements of the case against Saddam and his co-defendants had been thrown into doubt and the entire discovery process should be redone and all the prosecution witnesses reviewed.

``The court must reopen the doors of the investigations (into the Dujail case) and recall all the prosecution witnesses,″ Munib said. ``What we have seen has affected the basic evidence on which the prosecution has depended.″

The defense aired a second DVD on Wednesday aiming to support its contention the razing of farmlands in Dujail that took place during the crackdown was not a retaliation against its residents for the attack on Saddam. The defense has said it was part of a program to rebuild and modernize Dujail.

The video showed Saddam giving a speech in Dujail declaring that now that the farmlands were destroyed, ``We have a lot of land and can let everyone from Dujail have a house.″

``They wanted land to build on and live in, but we were not able to before because of the nature of the land,″ Saddam said, speaking from a balcony as a crowd below cheered. The defense said it did not know the exact date when the speech took place.

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