Ex-senior Iraqi aides currently in U.S. custody have refused to testify against their former leader Saddam Hussein when recently questioned by magistrates.

An Iraqi tribunal set up to try Saddam Hussein and his senior aides has released footage of them answering questions over past atrocities.

Saddam appeared in a film wearing a dark suit and an open-neck shirt.

Information is hard to obtain regarding the conversations that took place during the court appearances, but the films released so far show Saddam and his aides tried to strongly defend themselves. Sources close the court told Azzaman that apart from Saddam Hussein, who looked robust and resilient, the others who were questioned by the court appeared restless and shaky.

Taha Yassin Ramadan, the second-highest ranking jailed former official after Saddam Hussein, denied accusations of mass killings and executions. He did not blame Saddam Hussein for any of the accusations raised by the court against him. He would simply say that the former Revolutionary Council, the country’s all-powerful legislative and executive body at the time, jointly took all major decisions. He said the council unanimously adopted all the decisions regarding the execution of opponents.

Ali Hassan al-Majid flatly denied charges that he used chemical weapons against Kurdish towns and villages, chiefly in the city of Halabja [population 70,000] where 5,000 people were killed.

Asked about Halabja, Majid said he had no authority to order chemical weapon attacks, as the use of such weapons was the prerogative of the commander-in-chief, the defense minister or the army chief of staff. He said he ordered pilots to drop sacks of flour on the Kurdish cities of Dahouk and Sulaimaniya in a bid to scare off Kurdish rebels by making them believe the white powder was a chemical agent.

When entering the court, Majid was reported to be reciting verses from the holy Koran and gave the impression that he had turned into a pious man. But upon leaving the court, Majid began cursing his jailers, saying: “We are doomed anyway.”

Mahmoud Dhiyab Ahmad, who was the interior minister before the fall of Baghdad to U.S. troops, was shivering and shaking before the court. As a civil engineer, Ahmad had no military rank, and he kept repeating that he had never hurt anyone in his life. He asked the court to put an end to his ordeal by having him executed on the spot in the courtroom.

Saddam’s powerful personal secretary, Abed Hmoud appeared before the court for 30 minutes. He said he was innocent of charges of mass murder. Saddam’s half-brother Sabawai Ibrahim al-Hassan, a former security chief, skirted the court’s questions and began cursing the Syrians, who he said helped the Americans to arrest him.

While the court tried to have him answer the charges, Hassan went own telling the story of how he was arrested. He said the Syrian authorities asked to meet him for crucial talks regarding the Iraqi resistance. On arriving at the scene close to the Iraqi border with Syria, he was arrested and handed over to U.S. troops.

Taher Tawfiq, another senior member of Saddam Hussein’s Baath party, told the court that he was clean and upright and had never exploited his post at the expense of the Iraqi people.

The sources said the aides who appeared before the court would use the title of “Mr. President” when referring to Saddam Hussein.