|== ATTENTION -with trial resumes, charges dropped ///|
BAGHDAD, Jan 8, 2007 (AFP) -
The trial of six former Iraqi officials over the mass killing of 182,000 Kurdish villagers in the 1980s resumed Monday but without their executed co-accused Saddam Hussein.
The chief judge of the trial, Mohammed al-Oreibi al-Khalifah, said at the start of the session that the Iraqi High Tribunal (IHT) had dropped all legal procedings against Saddam.
"The court received a letter from the IHT on January 7 concerning the execution of defendant Saddam Hussein," the judge said.
"The court has decided to stop legal procedures against defendant Saddam Hussein, according to article 304 of the Iraqi criminal procedure law issued in 1971."
Saddam was executed on December 30 after being found guilty of crimes against humanity in a separate trial.
Monday's 34th session of the trial began with the front seat in the dock, occupied previously by Saddam, conspicuously empty after the other accused declined to sit on it.
Saddam had been a familiar sight on the chair since the proceedings began on August 21 in Baghdad, showing defiance from his front row position and frequently railing against court officials and witnesses.
Earlier Monday, a US official close to the court had said that Saddam was no longer an "accused" in the case, which had been in adjournment since December 21.
"Saddam is dead. From what I understand of law, the case is over against him," the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
"You can't try somebody posthumously (but) the trial will continue against the other accused now."
The ongoing case centres on the slaughter of 182,000 Kurdish villagers during the so-called Anfal campaign, which ran from 1980 through 1988.
Chief among the co-accused is Ali Hassan al-Majid, widely known as "Chemical Ali". A first cousin of Saddam and former defence minister, he is charged with genocide.
The other five co-accused have been charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity.
If convicted, all six defendants could face the death penalty.
Iraqi authorities and human rights group accuse Saddam's regime of having meticulously carried out military attacks, some using chemical bombs, against the Kurds.
The accused claim the campaign was a necessary counter-insurgency operation against Kurdish guerrillas who had sided with Iran against Saddam at the peak of the Iran-Iraq war in 1980-88.
Dozens of Kurdish witnesses have testified, describing how thousands of men, women and children had been brutally put to death.
The prosecution has also presented documentary evidence.
Saddam was hanged after he was convicted at a separate trial of crimes against humanity for the execution of 148 Shiites from Dujail town in retaliation for a failed attempt on his life there in 1982.
His execution has stirred global controversy after a mobile phone video of the hanging surfaced in which Saddam was heard being taunted while standing on the scaffold.
One guard screamed "Moqtada! Moqtada! Moqtada!" -- the name of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr -- in a scene that made the execution look more like a sectarian lynching than a court-ordered punishment.
Some contend that the manner in which Saddam died has given him martyr status.
US President George W. Bush -- who ordered the March 2003 invasion that overthrew Saddam's regime -- has said that the hanging should have been more dignified.