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First Witnesses in Saddam Trial

The first witnesses are testifying in the trial of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Mr. Hussein and seven co-defendants, including his half-brother Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, are charged by the Iraqi Higher Tribunal with the deaths of one hundred-forty-eight men from the mostly Shiite village of Dujayli following an attempt on Saddam Hussein's life in 1982.

One witness, Ahmed Hasan Muhammad al-Dujayli, told the court he and his family were among hundreds of people taken from Dujayli to the Hakmiya intelligence headquarters, run by Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti. Ahmed Hassan was fifteen at the time. He said that inside a room in the intelligence headquarters he saw "a grinder with blood coming out of it and human hair underneath." Ahmed Hassan said: "They would put a mask on my eyes and because I was young it would fall down. I saw women being tortured. My brother was given electric shocks while my seventy-seven-year-old father watched. . . .Some people were crippled because they had their arms and legs broken." Mr. Hassan said that a woman prisoner told a guard that her infant baby needed milk or he would die. "He died and the guard threw him from the window," Mr. Hassan told the court.

A resident of the northern city of Sulaimaniyah, Sardar Mohammed, told the Associated Press he was very happy to see Saddam on trial. "This is a new experience for the new Iraq," Mr. Mohammed said. "Iraqis now are watching the biggest man, Saddam, being tried in an open trial."

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Saddam Hussein is now facing justice. "This is a trial that is being conducted by Iraqi officials," he said. "The Iraqi people are holding him accountable for his crimes against humanity and the atrocities he committed against the Iraqi people. And that's the way it should be. . . .It's up to the Iraqi people to hold Saddam Hussein accountable, and that's what they're doing through the special tribunal."

The Iraqi Higher Tribunal is an Iraqi-led and managed process. The U.S. and other international partners will continue to provide technical assistance and funding to the tribunal to help ensure that it has the necessary resources, assistance, and training to conduct safe, fair, and transparent prosecutions in accordance with the rule of law.

Saddam Hussein and the other defendants are expected to be charged with other crimes. Mr. McClellan said it is important that due process be afforded to Mr. Hussein and the other defendants.

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.