BAGHDAD, Iraq – A court saw chilling videos of gassed children lying in a field and villagers fleeing clouds of white smoke as prosecutors argued Tuesday that Saddam Hussein and his regime had used chemical weapons against the Kurds of northern Iraq in the late 1980s.
"These children are the saboteurs that the defendants talk about," prosecutor Munqith al-Faroon said sarcastically as the footage showed scores of dead children on the ground, partially covered by blankets.
He was referring to the defense argument that Saddam and his co-defendants were fighting Kurdish insurgents during the 1987-88 military offensive that was codenamed Operation Anfal.
Saddam and six former members of his regime have pleaded innocent to charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for their roles in the operation, in which an estimated 180,000 Kurds have been killed. Saddam and one defendant have pleaded innocent to the additional charge of genocide.
"This is the result of the chemical attacks," the prosecutor shouted in the courtroom, referring to the dead children.
Al-Faroon did not reveal the source of the grainy videos with distorted sound. A timecode under the images showed the clips were at various times in 1987 and 1988.
One video showed a thick white smoke cloud that emerged after a loud explosion as warplanes bombed a green mountainous region.
The camera then showed villagers fleeing with their donkeys as houses in the background went up in flame.
"These images are meant to show the court all the aspects of Saddam's military offensive," al-Faroon said. "They include video clips of the chemical attacks, families escaping, warplanes bombing their villages and the camps were they were held in."
The court adjourned the trial to Wednesday.
If Saddam and the other defendants are convicted, all seven could be condemned to death.
Saddam has already been convicted and sentenced to death for the killing of nearly 150 people in the town of Dujail after a 1982 attempt to assassinate him. His lawyers have appealed that trial's verdict and sentence, and the appeals court is expected to rule next month.
Iraqi officials have suggested that Saddam's prosecution on genocide charges would be halted if the appeals court upholds the death sentence of the first trial.