BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Firas Adnan need only open his mouth to give evidence of Saddam Hussein's legacy. Just before the regime fell, the 24-year-old laborer quarreled with a Saddam loyalist, who punished him by chopping off his tongue with a box cutter.
Now Adnan awaits the prosecution of Saddam with mixed feelings - happy the former dictator will have to answer for his crimes but bitter because he must live with the scars from the regime.
"Saddam will stand trial, OK. But I'm handicapped. What's the use?" Adnan said Wednesday, his slurred words barely comprehensible. "It's not that I'm not happy ... But nothing will give me back my tongue. You know what I mean?"
Iraq's new government took legal custody of Saddam on Wednesday, read him his rights and informed him that he would face trial on war crimes charges.
Iraqis will get their first look at their former leader since his arrest in December when he appears in court Thursday along with 11 of his top lieutenants. Saddam's trial is not likely to start for months, probably not before 2005.
Adnan said he would definitely watch if the trial is televised, as officials have promised.
"It should be entertaining, I'll laugh about him," Adnan said. Then he paused and added, "It's not in my nature to gloat over someone's (misfortune)."
Asked if Saddam should be executed, Adnan said no - that would "only give him relief. It would be better if he is jailed; let him try what thousands of us have gone through."
But Adnan's mother, Fatma Ahmed interrupted: "I wish I could kill him with my own hands."
"He didn't have mercy on a mother, an old man. He is a despot, the biggest despot, Iraq will be much better without him," the 43-year-old Ahmed said.
Millions of other Iraqis understand well what Adnan is talking about. No punishment for Saddam can bring back the thousands of fathers, sons, sisters, daughters and mothers who died - in regime torture chambers, on the streets of dusty Kurdish villages, on the battlefields in Iran.
Adnan's torment came outside his Baghdad home in front of his parents - only two weeks before the Americans invaded Iraq. Adnan first spoke to an Associated Press reporter on April 18 shortly after U.S. troops swept into Baghdad and Saddam was ousted.
His trauma does not seem to have eased since then.
"I don't think anything will make me forget what happened to me," Adnan said Wednesday. "I don't think any woman would want to marry me."
In December 2002, Adnan got in a fight with some people in the street. A militiaman loyal to Saddam's son Odai intervened and threatened him with a gun. Adnan was so angry, he cursed Odai and Saddam.
Adnan escaped but was arrested by the militiamen a few days later, who tortured him for three months, vowing, he said, to "turn me crazy or execute me."
One day they woke him up early at prison, beat him severely, blindfolded him and took him away in a car. The vehicle stopped and he was pushed out.
"I heard people chanting 'With our soul and blood we redeem you Saddam.' I thought they were going to execute me. I started crying. When they asked me to open my mouth, I begged them to execute me," he said.
When they took off his blindfold, he saw he was in his own neighborhood and that his family were being forced to chant and wave portraits of Saddam.
But instead of killing him, the militiamen cut off part of his tongue with a box cutter. It took three tries, he said.
That was March 5, two weeks before the start of the war on Iraq. He wasn't released until mid-April. "Had the regime not fallen, they would have executed me," Adnan said.
Now he, his parents, four brothers and five sisters are crammed in one room at his grandmother's apartment - his parents sold theirs to bribe officials to spare his life. They sleep on carpets on the floor in the house, shared by 28 members of his extended family.
On one wall in the house are framed pictures of his uncles, Qais and Hussein Suleiman, both taken from the streets by Saddam's secret service just before the 1991 Gulf War.
"I was still hoping they will come back after the war, I'm still keeping their clothes," said Hamdeya Ahmed Abed, 77, the mother of the disappeared men. "But if they haven't come back 'til now, I guess they never will."