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The Iraq tribunal Tuesday announced new criminal charges against Saddam Hussein and six others for alleged genocide and crimes against humanity in a 1980's crackdown against the Kurds.
The move paves the way for a second trial of the ousted ruler. Saddam is already on trial in the killing of Shiites in a town north of Baghdad. Court officials said the second trial could begin anytime after 45 days.
Investigative judge Raid Juhi said the charges against Saddam and the others had been filed with another judge, who will review the evidence and order a trial date. The move is tantamount to an indictment under the Iraqi legal system.
The case involves Saddam's role in Operation Anfal, a three-phase move against Kurds in northern Iraq during the war with Iran in the late 1980s.
Anfal included the March 16 gas attack against Halabja in which 5,000 people, including women and children, died. Human rights groups consider the Halabja attack one of the gravest atrocities allegedly committed by Saddam's regime.
However, Juhi told The Associated Press that the Halabja gas attack would be prosecuted separately and was not considered part of the charges filed Tuesday.
"These people were subjected to forced displacement and illegal detentions of thousands of civilians," Juhi said. "They were placed in different detentions centers. The villages were destroyed and burned. Homes and houses of worshippers and buildings of civilians were leveled without reason or a military requirement."
Others accused in the Anfal case include Saddam's cousin, Ali Hassan Majid, or "Chemical Ali," former Defense Minister Sultan Hashim Ahmad, former intelligence chief Saber Abdul Aziz al-Douri, former Republican Guard commander Hussein al-Tirkiti, a former Nineveh provincial Gov. Taher Tafwiq al-Ani and another former top military commander, Farhan Mutlaq al-Jubouri.
Saddam and seven others have been on trial since Oct. 19 in a separate case - the deaths of more than 140 Shiite Muslims following a 1982 assassination attempt against him in the town of Dujail. Iraqi authorities chose to try Saddam separately for various alleged crimes rather than lump all the cases into one proceeding.
The Dujail trial was the first of what Iraqi authorities say could be up to a dozen proceedings. Saddam could face death by hanging of convicted in the Dujail case. It is unclear whether the sentence would be carried out while other trials were in progress.
In December, a Dutch court sentenced chemicals merchant Frans van Anraat to 15 years in prison for selling Saddam's regime the chemicals used in gas attacks against the Kurds, including Halabja. The ruling, the first ever dealing with atrocities under Saddam, concluded that the attacks constituted genocide.
It had no jurisdiction to try Saddam, but prosecutors named Saddam and Chemical Ali as co-conspirators. The Iraqi tribunal has access to several weeks of testimony and evidence presented in court.
One document was a government decree, number 4008, said to have been signed by Saddam on June 20, 1987 ordering "special artillery bombs to kill as many people as possible" in the Kurdish area. Special artillery, Dutch prosecutors said, meant chemical weapons.
Chemical Ali was heard in an audio clip on April 21, 1988, ordering that people caught in the Kurdish areas "have to be destroyed ... must have their heads shot off." In another radio fragment he said "I will attack them with chemical weapons and kill them all."