[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Sunday, 24 June 2007, 10:54 GMT 11:54 UK
'Chemical Ali' sentenced to hang
Ali Hassan al-Majid, or "Chemical Ali", in court on 24 June 2007
"Chemical Ali" is the cousin of late Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein
A cousin of the late Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has been sentenced to death by an Iraqi court for the murder of some 180,000 Kurds in 1988.

Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as "Chemical Ali" for using poison gas in the Anfal campaign, was convicted of genocide.

Two fellow defendants were equally sentenced to death while two others received life prison sentences.

Saddam had also been on trial for the Anfal campaign when he was executed in December 2006 for other crimes.

While many Kurds would have liked to see Saddam himself executed for the crimes, Majid personified Anfal for them and was thus a good second-best, the BBC's Jim Muir reports from Baghdad.

Anfal (English: Spoils of War) took place between February and August 1988
Officially it was a clampdown on Kurdish separatism in the north
With a civilian death toll of up to 180,000, Kurds regard it as a campaign of genocide
Mustard gas and nerve agents were used in air attacks
Other victims were summarily executed or died in captivity

Shaheen Mahmoud, a Kurdish civil servant in the northern city of Sulaimaniya, said news of the death sentences had made him shout with joy.

"I was ecstatic... but the bigger joy would be to see Majid executed in Kurdistan [northern Iraq]," he told Reuters news agency.

'We are innocent'

Majid stood impassively as his death sentence was pronounced.

But others shouted they were innocent and Hussein Rashid al-Tikriti, also sentenced to hang, declared to the court: "We defended Iraq and we were not criminals."

The death sentences were automatically sent to appeal. If the appeals fail, they will be hanged within 30 days of that ruling.

According to Sunday's verdicts:

  • Ali Hassan al-Majid ("Chemical Ali"), ex-Baath leader in northern Iraq, was sentenced to death for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity
    The six defendants (composite image)
    Ali Hassan al-Majid
    Saber Abdul Aziz
    Sultan Hashim Ahmed
    Hussein Rashid al-Tikriti
    Farhan al-Jibouri
    Taher Muhammad al-Ani

  • Sultan Hashim Ahmed, former defence minister, was sentenced to death by hanging for war crimes and crimes against humanity
  • Hussein Rashid al-Tikriti, ex-Republican Guard head, was sentenced to death for war crimes and crimes against humanity
  • Farhan al-Jibouri, ex-military commander, was sentenced to life in prison for war crimes and crimes against humanity
  • Saber Abdul Aziz, ex-intelligence chief, was sentenced to life in prison for war crimes and crimes against humanity
  • Taher Muhammad al-Ani, ex-governor of Nineveh province was cleared of war crimes and crimes against humanity for lack of evidence

'You committed genocide'

The chief judge, Mohammed al-Oreibi al-Khalifah, told Majid that he had ordered troops to kill or persecute Kurdish Iraqi civilians.

"You subjected them to wide and systematic attacks using chemical weapons and artillery," he said in the televised trial.

I'm sure that more executions will surely improve the situation
Dave, Palo Alto, CA
BBC News website reader

"You led the killing of Iraqi villagers. You restricted them in their areas, burnt their orchards, killed their animals. You committed genocide."

Many of the Kurds killed in 1988 were buried in mass graves, only some of which have been discovered.

The Anfal (Spoils of War) campaign was the culmination of years of efforts by Saddam Hussein's regime to suppress the Kurds in the north, our correspondent adds.

It was launched in early 1988 and lasted about seven months, involving attacks with chemical weapons, the destruction of some 2,000 villages, the complete depopulation of large areas and mass deportations.

A notorious massacre at Halabja in March 1988, in which 5,000 people were killed by gas, was not included in the charges as it was seen as being separate from the Anfal campaign.

Ali Hassan al-Majid is sentenced in court

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific