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 Day 19

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Tales of Beatings and Electric Shocks

Saddam: "Come and See My Cage"

by PATRICK COCKBURN


in Baghdad

Saddam Hussein shouted that he would not return "to an unjust court" after spending the fourth day of his trial listening stony-faced to a woman describe horrific tortures inflicted on her by Iraqi interrogators.

She was known only as "Witness A," testifying from behind a blue curtain, her voice electronically distorted as she told of beatings and electric shocks.

Describing her treatment by Wadah al-Sheik, an Iraqi intelligence officer who died of cancer last month, the woman said: "I was forced to take off my clothes, and he raised my legs up and tied up my hands. He continued administering electric shocks and beating me."

Sometimes bursting into tears and moaning "God is great. Oh my Lord", the woman, who was 16 at the time, told the court in Baghdad what had happened to the women and children from the Shia town of Dujail detained after a failed attempt to assassinate Saddam Hussein in 1982.

"I begged them but they hit me with their pistols," she said. "They made me put my legs up. There were five or more and they treated me like a banquet."

She gave a graphic description of the cruelties inflicted on the prisoners during her four years imprisonment. "One of my relatives was mute and deaf. They would take him before the women and hold him by his penis and mock him, making the women and children cry." At first she was tortured in the intelligence centre. She implied but did not say that she was raped. "Is that what happens to the virtuous woman that Saddam speaks about?" she said. Asked whom she held responsible, Witness A identified Saddam: "When so many people are jailed and tortured, who takes such a decision?"

In the intelligence centre in Dujail she was kept in a small red room with no light. She used her shoes as a pillow. She was given two small loaves of bread a day to eat. "After all that torture do you think we could eat?" she asked. In other prisons, at Abu Ghraib and Samawah, the mistreatment continued. She said: "This woman was giving birth, and they wouldn’t let another woman help her. The foetus was stuck." The baby suffocated.

Two other anonymous witnesses were also concealed behind a curtain. Witness C described how his 65-year-old father had died after being beaten over the head. He said: "My father died in prison and I was not able to see him."

This prompted an outburst from Saddam Hussein. He said the court was listening to the witnesses’ complaints "but does anyone ask Saddam Hussein whether he was tortured? Whether he was hit?"

He suggested that the court inspect the conditions under which he was held. "I live in an iron cage covered by a tent under American democratic rule. You are supposed to come and see my cage," he said.