BAGHDAD, Iraq – The chief judge ejected one of Saddam Hussein's defense lawyers on Wednesday for "insulting the court" in the former Iraqi leader's trial for genocide in a military offensive against Kurds in the 1980s.
After the stormy start to the session, an American forensic scientist testified about his examination of bodies found in a mass grave in northern Iraq, saying they appeared to have been gunned down by a firing squad.
Defense lawyer Badie Arif Ezzat was ejected after he tried to object to the foreign experts the prosecution has called in to testify the past two days. When he referred to the prosecution and judges as "brother" rather than by their titles, chief judge Mohammed Oreibi al-Khalifa warned him to respect the court.
But Ezzat repeated the phrase and al-Khalifa ordered him removed and detained for 24 hours for "insulting the court." There was a brief shouting match between the two as guards escorted Ezzat out of the room.
Saddam and his co-defendants have pleaded innocent to charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity arising from their role in a military crackdown on Iraq's Kurd population in 1987-88. Saddam and one other defendant are also charged with genocide for the campaign, code-named Operation Anfal, in which the prosecution says 180,000 people, mostly civilians, were killed.
Over the past two days, the court has been listening to American forensic experts testifying on their 1992 investigation of a mass grave where 27 bodies were found in the Kurdish village of Koreme, one of hundreds of towns destroyed in the Anfal campaign.
Douglas Scott, a forensic archaeologist at the University of Nebraska, said he examined cartridge cases and bullets found among the bodies. At least seven gunmen "in a firing-squad type organization" fired 124 rounds from Kalashnikov assault rifles at the victims, he said.
On Tuesday, Clyde Snow — a forensic expert from the University of Oklahoma — described the bodies found at the Koreme site, showing pictures of exhumed skeletons wearing traditional Kurdish clothes.
Survivors said that in August 1998 Iraqi forces detained Koreme's population — about 300 people — and separated out 33 men and boys, who were taken to a location nearby, Snow said. There, the troops opened fire on them, killing 27, Snow said. Iraqi forces then attacked the village and forced the rest of the population to leave, he said.
Soil samples were taken from craters left by bombardment during the attack, and testing at a British lab found traces of mustard gas and the nerve gas Sarin, Snow said. His team examined the site in a trip organized by Western human rights groups.
The defense objected to Snow's testimony, demanding that experts be brought in to verify his credentials. Saddam insisted that Snow should not be allowed to testify because he was American and demanded neutral international experts, suggesting that the bodies in the grave may have been moved to the location from separate locations.
"No one should imagine I'm trying to defend Saddam Hussein, given the earlier sentence against me. You can only be executed once, not 10 times," he said, referring to the death sentence issued against him on Nov. 5 in an earlier trial on charges of killing Shiites. "I'm only trying to defend the truth."
Saddam and his co-defendants, all former officials in his regime, face possible death sentences if convicted.