Saddam Hussein's trial on genocide charges was adjourned Thursday after he came face-to-face with one of the alleged victims of the Anfal campaign.
A nervous Kurdish farmer took the stand and recalled a meeting he had with the Iraqi leader nearly two decades ago to plead for the lives of his family members.
"I was hoping that God will fill his heart with mercy," Abdullah Mohammed Hussein said. The farmer said that village elders had helped him get in to see Saddam. He testified that he told the Iraqi leader, "Sir, my family members were arrested."'
He said that when Saddam found out where he lived, he replied, "Shut up. Your family is gone in the Anfal."
Prosecutors allege that 180,000 Kurds were killed in the Anfal campaign in 1987 and 1988, when Iraqi forces stormed the Kurdish region, using airstrikes with chemical weapons. Tens of thousands were forced from their homes, their villages destroyed. At the time, Iraqi leaders alleged that Kurdish rebels were aiding Iran, which was then at war with Iraq.
In the courtroom Thursday, Saddam watched the farmer as he testified. He asked for a pen and paper so he could take notes. Then he challenged the witness.
"Why did he try to see Saddam Hussein, knowing that Saddam Hussein is a dictator, and an enemy of the Kurdish people, as they say?" Saddam questioned.
Judge Abdullah al-Amiri interrupted the Iraqi leader with a comment that surprised many in the courtroom.
"You are not a dictator. You were not a dictator," Judge al-Amiri said. "The people around the person make him a dictator. Not just you. But this happens worldwide. "
Saddam looked up at the judge, said "thank you," and bowed his head.
Al-Amiri heads a five-judge panel that oversees the trial and will deliver a verdict. He is a Shiite Muslim and has been a judge for 25 years, much of that time under Saddam's regime.
Earlier this week, the chief prosecutor in the case, Munqith al-Faroon, demanded that the judge step down, accusing him of bias. Al-Faroon said the judge was allowing Saddam to make political statements.
The prosecutor did not challenge the judge Thursday after his exchange with Saddam. Not long after the comment, the judge abruptly suspended the session until Monday, citing what he called "technical reasons." There was no further explanation.
At a press conference after the session, a spokesman for the tribunal defended the judge's comments about Saddam. He told reporters they were ignoring the positive aspects of the court.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Baghdad morgue said it received 80 bodies over the past 24 hours, the highest number in weeks. Eight of the bodies were headless. One head was placed in a bag with a note reading, "This is what happens to Sunnis."
The U.S. military said three American soldiers died; One was killed when his vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb. Another was killed by gunfire. The third soldier died after being hit by enemy fire Wednesday near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.