BAGHDAD, Iraq – A key witness against Saddam Hussein has died of cancer, but his testimony has been recorded on audio and video tape for presentation in the trial scheduled to begin next week, the main prosecutor said Friday.
Wadah Ismael Al-Sheik died on Oct. 27, four days after talking to court officials, said Jafaar al-Mousawi, the main prosecutor. He said the testimony at a U.S. detention center was "on the side of the victims."
Al-Sheik, was a senior Iraqi intelligence officer at the time of the Dujail massacre in 1982 that Saddam and seven other co-defendants are charged with. The trial is set to resume on Monday.
If convicted, the Saddam and the others could face the death penalty for their role in the killing of 148 people from the mainly Shiite town of Dujail north of Baghdad after a failed attempt on Saddam's life.
In violence Thursday, a homicide bomber blew up his car outside a hospital south of Baghdad while U.S. troops handed out candy and food to children, killing 30 people and wounding about 40, including four Americans.
Three women and two children were among the dead in the attack outside the hospital in Mahmoudiya, 20 miles south of Baghdad in the "triangle of death" notorious for attacks on Shiite Muslims, U.S. troops and foreign travelers.
A civil affairs team from the U.S. Army's Task Force Baghdad was at the hospital studying ways to upgrade the facility when the bomber struck just outside the guarded compound, a U.S. military statement said.
Elsewhere, 11 Iraqis were killed and 17 injured Thursday when a car bomb exploded near a crowded soft drink stand in Hillah, a mostly Shiite Muslim city 60 miles south of Baghdad. More than 200 people — mostly Shiites — have died from suicide attacks and car bombs since Friday.
U.S. and Iraqi officials had been expecting a rise in violence before the Dec. 15 election, when voters will select their first fully constitutional parliament since the ouster of Saddam Hussein in 2003.
In trial developments, a spokesman for the defense said Thursday in Amman, Jordan, that Saddam's defense lawyers will attend the trial despite recent assassination of two team members.
"A decision has been taken not to leave the president alone," Issam Ghazawi told The Associated Press, referring to Saddam as president.
"We will not allow the court to appoint other lawyers," Ghazawi said. "The lawyers are forced to attend the hearings, despite serious threats on their lives, but they want to do that to serve justice."
On Oct. 20, the day after the trial began, attorney Saadoun al-Janabi was kidnapped by masked gunmen. His body was found the next day with bullet holes in the head.
On Nov. 8, defense lawyer Adel al-Zubeidi was killed in an ambush and a colleague, Thamir al-Khuzaie, was wounded. Al-Khuzaie fled the country and asked for asylum in Qatar.
Saddam was captured by U.S. troops nearly two years ago after spending eight months on the run following the fall of his regime in April 2003.