Court hears tape of Saddam plotting to gas the Kurds

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The voice of Saddam Hussein was heard in a Baghdad court yesterday discussing the gassing of Kurds with his cousin "Chemical Ali" Hassan al-Majid.

With the chair of the hanged former Iraqi president empty in the dock, the prosecution played a tape in which Saddam allegedly discusses using chemical weapons on Kurds.

"I will strike them with chemical weapons and kill them all," a voice said to be Mr Majid is heard saying. "Who is going to say anything? The international community? A curse on the international community!"

Another voice, said to be Saddam's, says, "Yes, it's effective, especially on those who don't wear a mask immediately, as we understand." A third voice, from the back, asks: "Sir, does it exterminate thousands?" "Saddam" responds: "Yes, it exterminates thousands and forces them not to eat or drink and they will have to evacuate their homes without taking anything with them."Yesterday's proceedings began with the judge officially dismissing all charges against the dead president, including genocide, in relation to the Anfal campaign against the Kurds in which more than 100,000 people were killed.

Judge Mohammed al-Ureybi ordered microphones to be switched off when Mr Majid attempted to recite a prayer from the Koran in memory of Saddam. "Make him sit down, make him sit down," Judge Ureybi shouted.

Many Kurdish public figures have expressed regret that Saddam was hanged before being tried on the gassing charges. All seven defendants in the Anfal case, including Saddam, had pleaded not guilty to charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.