BAGHDAD (AFP) - Former Iraqi deputy prime
minister Tareq Aziz took the witness stand to defend
Saddam Hussein and his associates in a case
involving the killing of Shiite civilians from
Dujail in the 1980s.
While he was not involved with the events of Dujail
itself, his testimony focused on the series of
assassination attempts against officials of the
Baath regime at that time, which Aziz blamed on the
Shiite Dawa Party of the current prime minister.
"The president is not guilty, nor are any of the
officials in the government, just because they
punished those who tried to assassinate the head of
state," he told the court.
An assassination attempt against Saddam in Dujail in
1982 sparked a harsh crackdown and the killing of
148 people from the Shiite town, as well as the
arrest and imprisonment of hundreds of people and
the destruction of their orchards.
"The Dujail case is part of a chain of assassination
operations against officials and I am one of the
victims," he said, laying the responsibility for the
attempt at the feet of the Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's
"I am also a victim of the criminal acts of a party
which is now an official party in the government,"
he said. "I want them tried for their criminal acts
like the assassination attempt in the Mustansiriyah
Iraq's ex-Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz
Former dictator Saddam Hussein
Photo : AFP
In 1980, Aziz was attacked by militants who tossed
grenades at him at the university in Baghdad.
"The president of the state in any country, if faced
with an assassination attempt, should take
procedures to punish those who conduct and help this
operation," he said.
Aziz said he was testifying on the behalf of not
just Saddam, but also former head of intelligence
Barzan al-Tikriti and former vice president Taha
"Barzan was my friend. If he had tortured anybody he
would have told me," Aziz said.
Saddam then spoke out in defense of Barzan and
Ramadan, saying they had nothing to do with the
crackdown on Dujail.
"I just let this issue work in the usual way and
assigned the security department, not the
intelligence who had other work to do," Saddam said.
"I didn't assign Ramadan to anything in this case."
Saddam and his seven co-defendants face charges of
crimes against humanity, including murder and
torture, and could face execution by hanging if
Aziz's testimony was followed by that of Abdel Hamid
Mahmud, Saddam's feared director of personal
security and constant companion, who described the
attack on Saddam.
He explained how the conspirators used the
traditional custom of sacrificing a sheep in
Saddam's honor to mark his car for the assassins
with bloody hand prints.
"The day afterwards, the protection force office
called and he'd found a warehouse full of heavy
weapons and a radio set capable of contacting people
outside Iraq, obviously Iran, who was involved in
the attack," Mahmud said.
He also attempted to absolve Barzan from guilt by
explaining that the intelligence service would not
have been involved in a domestic affair.
"The local security service speciality is inside
Iraq, the intelligence service operates outside
Iraq, so Dujail is the speciality of local security
because it happened in Iraq and involved Iraqi
The trial is currently in the defense phase,
featuring testimony on the behalf of the accused,
with last week involving witnesses for the little
known Baathist officials from Dujail.
The trial, which opened on October 19, has been
marred by repeated tirades from Saddam and other
defendants, the murder of two defense lawyers and
the January resignation of the first chief judge.
Chief prosecutor Jaafar al-Mussawi told AFP the
defense testimony could take a few weeks, as nearly
60 witnesses are lined up to testify in the
courtroom in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone.
Once defense testimony is complete, defense lawyers
will give their closing statements, followed by
defendants' final statements which will mark the end
of the trial.
The proceedings could conclude by the end of June, a
US official close to the court said last week, with
a verdict coming as early as July.
International human rights advocates say the trial
is being conducted well below international legal