Tuesday, December 06, 2005

This is the Noble Cause, Cindy Sheehan

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The first woman to testify against Saddam Hussein, hidden behind a high curtain, recounted on Tuesday how she had been made to strip naked, beaten and given electric shocks during weeks of interrogation. Identified only as "Witness A," she told the court how she had envied camels their freedom while she was held with hundreds of others rounded up after an attempt on Saddam's life in the village of Dujail in 1982. She said she was moved from one prison to another over four years during Saddam's rule, and had spent a bitter winter at the Abu Ghraib jail in western Baghdad before being driven through the desert to another jail.
"I saw camels and I was envious because they were free," she said.
In the desert prisoners had to forage for food from rubbish and walked three km (two miles) to gather firewood, she said. Her voice was heavily modified through a computer to protect her identity. She wept as she told of being forced by an interrogator soon after her detention to strip in custody while five officers watched."I was forced to take my clothes off. They lifted my legs up, they tied my hands, they beat me with cables and (gave me) electric shocks," she said.
She was then thrown into a small room with only red lighting, where she used her shoes for a pillow, she testified, adding that she was interrogated for weeks.
"From a small window, they gave us two loaves of bread," she said. "After all that torture, do you think we could eat?" Later she was taken to Abu Ghraib, she said, where the water was freezing cold in winter, prisoners' hair crawled with lice, and women pulled threads from blankets to sew clothes. "We had no shoes, we used to go barefoot," she recounted. "We would use cardboard and fashion a shoe out of it to go to the restroom." Witness A frequently referred to torture she saw inflicted on others, but was cut short by the judge who told her stick to incidents that had happened to her.
Still, she managed to recount how a deaf and mute male relative was held by his penis and mocked in front of women and children. At other times, men would be lined up and threatened with beating unless they ran. Guards stopped the women from helping one woman give birth, even when the baby was stuck between her legs, she said. Saddam, who regards the trial as a sham and has repeatedly questioned the court's authority, sat largely impassively through the testimony. He and seven others are accused of crimes against humanity over the killings of over 140 men from the Shi'ite village of Dujail after a failed assassination attempt on the then president in 1982.