[JURIST] The Iraqi High Tribunal [official website] judge presiding over the crimes against humanity trial [JURIST report] of 15 former Iraqi officials ejected two defendants from the courtroom Wednesday for failing to follow the rules of court. During the first day of witness testimony, chief judge Mohammed Oreibi al-Khalifa threw out Iyad Fathi al-Rawi and Sultan Hashim Ahmad al-Tai and warned other defendants that they should not talk to each other during proceedings or sit cross-legged in the pen that holds defendants in the courtroom. The Saddam Hussein-era officials are on trial for their role in attacks against the civilian population following the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Tens of thousands of civilians were killed during the government's violent response to the predominantly Shi'a uprising [HRW backgrounder] in Southern Iraq. The court heard testimony Wednesday from a former lawmaker who said he was imprisoned for months even though he said he played no role in the uprising. Kamil Kanoun Abu al-Heil also described how inmates were tortured at the prison where he was held.
One of the defendants in the current trial is Saddam Hussein's cousin and former Iraqi defense minister Ali Hassan al-Majid [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], also known as Chemical Ali, who has already been sentenced to death [JURIST report] for his role in the 1988 Anfal campaign [HRW backgrounder] that slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Kurds. Five defendants in the Anfal trial are currently appealing [JURIST report] their sentences to the Iraqi High Tribunal's Appeals Chamber. If the death sentences are upheld, Iraqi law requires the executions to take place within 30 days of the court ruling. The new case is the third in a series of trials involving Hussein-era officials [JURIST news archive]. The first was the Dujail case [BBC timeline] involving crimes against humanity committed in that Iraqi town in 1982, which resulted in the hangings of Hussein and his co-defendants. AP has more.