Ali Hassan al-Majid and two others sentenced to death by Iraqi court

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Al-Majid at an investigative hearing in 2004

A cousin of Saddam Hussein, Ali Hassan al-Majid, also known as "Chemical Ali", was sentenced to death by hanging yesterday in Iraq by the Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal, along with two other officials from the former Baath Party. They were sentenced for their roles in the Al-Anfal Campaign, an anti-Kurdish campaign that resulted in the deaths of 180,000 Kurds.

It was during an attack against the Kurds that he received the nickname "Chemical Ali", for the infamous Halabja poison gas attack, in which he ordered chemical weapons to be used against a town full of Kurdish civilians. The trial did not deal with this specific incident.

Judge Mohammed Oreibi al-Khalifa told al-Majid that, according to a New York Times report, he had "been convicted of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes for ordering army and security services to use chemical weapons in a large-scale offensive that killed or maimed thousands." Al-Majid was head of the Baath Party's Northern Bureau Command at the time of the offences.

Al-Majid is reported to have said "Thanks be to God" as he left the court building, although he was trembling and silent when the verdict was read out. Reuters described him as "old-looking" during the sentencing.

Former defense minister Sultan Hashim Ahmad al-Tal was also sentenced to death, for a large-scale attack on civilians, and for the usage of chemical weapons and illegal deportation against the Kurds. He insisted he was innocent as he left the courtroom, saying "I will not say anything new, but I will leave you to God. I'm innocent,".

Former deputy director of operations for the Iraqi Armed Forces Hussein Rashid Mohammed was the third to be sentenced to death, for a number of allegations against the Kurds, including making anti-Kurdish military plans. He interrupted the judge during the reading of the verdict, saying that all the defendants were merely defending Iraq from Kurdish rebels. He is reported to have said "God bless our martyrs. Long live the brave Iraqi army. Long live Iraq. Long live the Baath party and long live Arab nations,".

There were also two sentences of life imprisonment, one for former head of military intelligence's eastern regional office Farhan Mutlaq Saleh and one for director of military intelligence under Saddam Hussein Sabir al-Douri. Charges were dropped against former governor of Mosul and head of the Northern Affairs Committee Taher Tawfiq al-Ani due to insufficient evidence. This move was expected as the prosecutor had earlier requested his release.

The sentences, unless overturned on appeal, will mark the end of the so-called Anfal trial, the second trial against regime officials since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The other trial was that of Hussein himself, which ended in his execution. Prior to his death, Hussein had also been a defendant in the Anfal trial.