Tribunal grills Saddam aides about Kurd killings

BAGHDAD (AP) — The Iraqi tribunal investigating members of Saddam Hussein’s regime released a videotape Sunday showing two of the ousted dictator’s half brothers being questioned about their alleged role in displacing and killing Kurds.
The Iraqi Special Tribunal also sought to put an end to speculation over the date that Saddam’s trial will begin, mostly in comments made by members of the Shiite-led government, by saying that it was the only body authorised to take such a decision and that any other comments “are just predictions.” It has in the past said no trial date has been set.

Barzan Ibrahim Hassan Tikriti, a former presidential adviser and a half brother to Saddam, was one of six people shown on the 15-minute video released by the Iraqi Special Tribunal. All six were on the list of American’s most wanted Iraqis. There was no audio on the tape which showed them being questioned by investigating magistrates.

The tribunal said he was questioned about the killing and arresting of Faili Kurds living in Iraq. The charge was not related to the gassing of Halabja in 1988 that killed an estimated 5,000 people. The small Faili minority are Shiite Kurds from an area in northeastern Iraq that straddles the border between Iraq and Iran. Saddam Hussein forcibly deported tens of thousands of Faili early in the 1980-1988 war between Iraq and Iran. Saddam’s regime denounced the Faili as alien Persians, accusing them of spying for the Iranians and aiding their war effort.

He was also allegedly the chief organiser of a clandestine group of companies and funds handling Saddam’s money.

The second half brother was Watban Ibrahim Hassan, Tikriti’s brother and a former presidential adviser, who was captured April 13, 2003. He was also questioned about the Faili Kurds.

Both half brothers, they share the same mother as Saddam but a different father, were wearing light blue jumpsuits. The video also showed Latif Nusayyif Jasim Dulaymi, a deputy Baath Party military bureau deputy chairman who was captured on June 9, 2003. The IST said he was questioned about his alleged participation in an “ethnic cleansing” campaign to expel more than 100,000 Kurds from oil-rich northern Kirkuk. Also question about Kirkuk was Ayad Futayyih Khalifa, Quds forces chief of staff, who was captured on June 4, 2003. He is also charged with “ethnic” cleansing in Kirkuk.

Facing similar charges were Muhsin Khadr Khafaji, a Baath Party regional command chairman who was captured on February 7, 2004 and Mohammed Zimam Abdul Razaq. He was Baath Party regional command chairman and was arrested on February 16, 2004.

It was the fourth video tape to be released this month, including one showing Saddam Hussein at the beginning of June. The last video showed his cousin Ali Hassan Majid, nicknamed “Chemical Ali” for his alleged role in the 1988 Halabja chemical attack.

Although there have been no dates set for any of the trials, senior government officials including Justice Minister Abdel Hussein Shandal have said Saddam would go on trial within two months or by the end of the year. They have been forced to backtrack repeatedly following complaints from the IST.

“The IST emphasises its impartiality, independence and flexibility,” it said in an announcement, which called on all Iraqis to “gather around it and provide it with total trust.” “It calls for all to rely on its press releases as official statements and anything else that is released are only predictions,” it added.

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