Saddam’s signature on papers, experts say

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) – Handwriting experts confirmed Saddam Hussein’s signatures on two more key documents in the ousted Iraqi leader’s trial – one approving death sentences for 148 Shiites, the other ordering confiscation of farmlands, the judge said Wednesday.

Dressed in his black suit, Saddam was unusually silent throughout the three-hour session. But his half-brother and co-defendant Barzan Ibrahim angrily rejected the experts’ report as biased.

Defense lawyers demanded a neutral, international panel of experts be formed to look at documents presented by the prosecution that allegedly were signed by Saddam or the other seven defendants.

Chief judge Raouf Abdel-Rahman did not rule on the demand for international experts, but he appeared dismissive of it and ordered Iraqi experts to continue examining remaining documents for the next session, scheduled for Monday.

Saddam and the former officials from his regime are on trial for the deaths of the 148 Shiites and the imprisonment of hundreds of others in a crackdown following an assassination attempt against Saddam in the mainly Shiite town of Dujail in 1982.

Prosecutors aimed to use the documents to show Saddam, Ibrahim and the others were closely involved in the crackdown.

The former Iraqi president has refused to confirm or deny the signatures are his -and Ibrahim and some other defendants called the documents forgeries. Saddam and Ibrahim refused to give handwriting samples, so the Iraqi experts relied on comparisons with other documents signed by the men unrelated to the Dujail case.

In Wednesday’s session, Abdel-Rahman read the report from the experts saying the signatures on two memos, dated Oct. 10, 1982, and June 16, 1984, “matched the signatures of Saddam Hussein.”

The 1984 memo approved the death sentences against the 148, issued by Saddam’s Revolutionary Court two days earlier. The 1982 document ordered that farmlands taken from Dujail families in retaliation for the assassination attempt be handed over to the Agriculture Ministry.

The judge then adjourned the trial until next week to allow experts to look at more documents.

On Monday, the experts said they had authenticated Saddam’s signature on a 1982 memo approving rewards for six intelligence agents involved in the crackdown. They also said signatures on other documents were those of Ibrahim, the former head of the Mukhabarat intelligence agency.

The authentications may verify Saddam signed off on the executions and confiscations, but on their own are far from sealing the case against him.

Iraqi law requires the president’s approval on any execution orders, and Saddam, a Sunni, has acknowledged in court that he ordered the trial of the 148 Shiites. But he and the other defendants argue that their actions were not a crime since they were responding to the shooting attack against him.

The prosecution has sought to show that the crackdown went far beyond the perpetrators of the attempt on Saddam’s life, with entire families – including women and children – arrested in the sweep that followed. It says the 148 sentenced to death included minors as young as 11 years old.

Chief defense lawyer Khalil al-Dulaimi repeated his demand that an international team of experts be called in to examine the documents.

The current team “lacks the experience and appropriate means to examine the handwriting,” he said.

Ibrahim denounced the experts’ report as a “script directed by (chief prosecutor) Jaafar al-Moussawi to give credibility” to the case.

“The general prosecution is obviously biased and wants to use everything to convict us,” Ibrahim said. “I demand a non-biased and non-Iraqi committee (of handwriting experts) because there is a crisis in trust between us.”

“I’m not afraid of the punishment but I’m afraid of my reputation being defamed,” he said. “Why should I kill 148 people? … Al-Dujail’s people are our family and part of our country. They know exactly who arrested them and who razed their farms. If you want to put it on my head, then show the proof.”

The prosecution is wrapping up its case and the defense is expected to begin its arguments in upcoming sessions.

Saddam and his seven co-defendants face possible execution by hanging if convicted in the Dujail case.

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