Survivors of a vicious government crackdown on an Iraqi village during the reign of Saddam Hussein described scenes of rape, infanticide, and grotesque torture at the deposed despot's trial this week. The trial's first live testimony came from five Iraqis who survived Saddam's wrath after a 1982 assassination attempt in the town of Dujail, where 148 Shiite villagers were murdered and dozens others dragged away and tortured. Victims spoke of electrified whips, acid, and a meat grinder clogged with human flesh, blood, and hair. One woman, who was 16 at the time, described being shocked and beaten, and sexually abused by five or more officers. 'œThey treated me like a banquet,' she said.
Saddam again turned the courtroom into chaos. He repeatedly challenged the court's legitimacy, complained that he and his seven co-defendants had been denied clean clothes and underwear, and refused to return for a second day of testimony. 'œThis is terrorism,' Saddam shouted. 'œI will not come to an unjust court! Go to hell!' Chief Judge Rizgar Muhammed Amin briefly allowed testimony to proceed without Saddam, but then adjourned the trial until Dec. 21 at the request of defense lawyers, who continued to express concerns about their safety. Two of Saddam's lawyers have been assassinated.
Americans have taught at least one thing to the Iraqis, said Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post: 'œhow to stage a Trial of the Century.' This is just the first of many trials Saddam will face, and so far, the courtroom theater 'œis an utterly compelling made-for-TV spectacle.' Just as in the O.J. Simpson case, there is a beleaguered judge struggling to keep control; a celebrity defense attorney, in Ramsey Clark; and a 'œfascinating monster at its core.'
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This trial's success depends on its goals, said Allen S. Weiner in the Los Angeles Times. No one doubts that Saddam is guilty. But if the trial manages to transcend the chaos, it 'œcan teach Iraq the valuable lesson that the state may punish citizens, even one as detested as Hussein, solely on the basis of laws impartially applied, not on the whims or caprice of the ruler.'
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