[JURIST] The Iraqi High Tribunal [official website] heard closing arguments Sunday from defense lawyers in the genocide trial [JURIST news archive; BBC trial timeline] of Ali Hassan al-Majid [JURIST news archive] and other former officials in the Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive] regime. Al-Majid – Hussein's cousin known in the Western media as "Chemical Ali" – and his co-defendants are being tried for their alleged involvement in the slaughter of tens of thousands of Kurds by using nerve agents and mustard gas during the so-called "Anfal campaign" [HRW backgrounder]. Earlier Sunday co-defendant Sultan Hashim Ahmad al-Tai, a former Hussein defense minister who was an Iraqi Army corps commander at the time of Anfal, testified that he had had no access to chemical weapons and had received no orders to use them, echoing testimony from previous defense witnesses [JURIST report]. Prosecutors have sought the death penalty [JURIST report] for Al-Majid and three other defendants and have asked that charges be dropped against one of the six total defendants due to lack of evidence. Al-Majid became the leading defendant [JURIST report] in the trial following Hussein's execution [JURIST report] last year.
According to defense lawyer Giovanni Di Stefano [firm website], previously one of Hussein's lawyers, the defendants are waiting for the court to rule on several motions, including a motion challenging the legality of the indictments [DOC text] and a motion calling for exhumations [DOC text] of the deceased killed during Anfal to allow for forensic testing. In a statement to JURIST, Di Stefano said:
I have filed a submission in order that the Defence is able to obtain its own independent forensic pathologist and toxicologist. The indictments claim that the victims were murdered using chemical weapons. No post mortum or autopsy reports have been furnished to the defence (and Court) proving that anyone died from chemical attacks. It was and remains unconceded that any such deaths occurred without proper admissible evidence. I have requested the court to permit the Defence to exhume victims and to be examined by a forensic pathologist. No response has been forthcoming from the Court.
I have filed a submission to be permitted for the defence to examine documents held by the Iraqi Survey Group and the FBI in its storage facilities in Qatar. No response has been forthcoming from the Court.
I have provided the Court with two documents [DOC text] from many of an exculpatory basis for Saddam Hussein which clearly show that Saddam Hussein ordered no chemical attacks or weapons to be used. He further ordered that villages be 'relocated' not destroyed as the documents show. It was for this reason that there was a rush to execution of Saddam Hussein as I would have introduced these and more documents in my possession to the court.
Finally, we have filed submissions regarding the vagueness of the indictments. How can anyone defend what I term a 'carte blanche indictment'? Iraq was accused of cheating at football but in this case the Iraqi High tribunal with the current form of the indictments have created a 'perpetual moving goalpost' to ensure the Defence is always hindered. I am well aware that in the Anfal case three defendants will be sentenced to death, one to imprisonment and one set free. It has been made crystal clear. Yet despite such all involved regardless of the sever handicaps and unfairness will simply proceed to do our best. Both Dujail and Anfal are being held in grossly unfair and unsafe conditions. It is for these reasons that I am prosecuting Judge Rahman in the UK and will do the same to any Judge in any jurisdiction if unfair conditions are imposed on the defence.
AP has more.