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Iraq's 'Chemical Ali' Gets Second Death Sentence

December 02, 2008

BAGHDAD (Reuters) -- An Iraqi court has sentenced Saddam Hussein's cousin "Chemical Ali" to death for the killing of thousands of Shi'ites in a ruthless crackdown on their uprising after the 1991 Gulf War.

It was the second death sentence to be handed down against Ali Hassan al-Majid, who earned his nickname for his role in using poison gas against Kurdish villages.

Dressed in a traditional Arab chequered headdress and robe, al-Majid stood quietly as the verdict was read, showing no emotion.

He was first condemned to be hanged last year for the killing of tens of thousands of Kurds in the 1980s, but that sentence was held up by political wrangling.

The judge did not say when this execution would be carried out, but Majeed can appeal the decision. It was unclear whether this sentence would also be delayed by the political dispute.

Judge Muhammad al-Uraibi also sentenced a former top Ba'ath Party official, Abdul Ghani Abdul Ghafour, to hang for his involvement in the crackdown on Shi'ites in the south, and 10 others to sentences ranging from 15 years to life in prison.

"The court has decided to execute by hanging the convicted Ali Hassan al-Majid for committing...willful killings and crimes against humanity," the judge said.

Hussein's Sunni Arab-led government quelled a Shi'ite uprising in 1991. Investigators discovered dozens of mass graves containing thousands of decayed bodies after U.S. forces ousted his government in 2003.

As the verdict was read out, Ghafour became agitated and started shouting: "I am a martyr for Iraq and the Arab nation. Down with the U.S. occupation! Down with the collaborators! Victory for jihad!"

No Remorse

Uraibi told journalists afterward that the sentences were agreed by four out of five judges deciding the cases.

Al-Majid's reputation for ruthless use of force to crush opponents won him widespread notoriety during Hussein's rule and led many Iraqis to fear him even more than the leader himself.

The judge said al-Majid had shown no remorse.

"Most of them apologized and felt regret during the trial except Ali Hassan al-Majid," he said, explaining why other Ba'ath officials had softer sentences than al-Majid.

The Iraqi High Tribunal was set up in 2003 to try former members of Hussein's government and was the same one that sentenced the former dictator to death.

New York-based Human Rights Watch estimates 290,000 people disappeared under Hussein, many killed then heaped in ditches.

Hussein was executed in December 2006 after being convicted of crimes against humanity for the killing of 148 Shi'ite men and boys after a 1982 assassination attempt.

His execution sparked anger among minority Sunni Arabs, who were outraged by a video showing the ousted leader being taunted by official observers of the Shi'ite-led governing coalition in the moments before he was hanged.

His half-brother, Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, was executed two weeks later in a botched hanging in which he was decapitated. Two other members of the former government have also been executed.

Also now on trial is former Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, the public face of Hussein's regime, who is facing charges over the execution of dozens of merchants accused of breaking state price controls in 1992.

Source: http://www.rferl.org/content/Iraqs_Chemical_Ali_Gets_Second_Death_Sentence/1355391.html

Copyright (c) 2008. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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