Page last updated at 12:12 GMT, Tuesday, 2 December 2008

New Chemical Ali death sentence


After the sentencing, Ali Hasan al-Majid said 'praises and thanks to God' - Adbulghani Adbul Ghafour said he welcomed death

An Iraqi court has sentenced to death Ali Hassan al-Majid, also known as Chemical Ali, for his role in crushing a Shia uprising in 1991.

It is the second death sentence passed on Majid, a cousin of Saddam Hussein.

The court also condemned a senior Baath Party official, Abdulghani Abdul Ghafour, to hang for the same crime.

In February, Majid was condemned to hang for genocide over the killing of 100,000 people during the 1988 Anfal campaign against Iraq's Kurds.

The latest verdicts were issued after a trial which heard harrowing testimony of how the Iraqi army crushed the rebellion by Iraq's Shia community.

The uprising followed Saddam Hussein's defeat by US-led forces in the first Gulf War in 1991.

Witnesses told of mass executions and family members being thrown from helicopters.

The judge said the court had decided to execute Majid "by hanging for committing wilful killings and crimes against humanity".

Ten other defendants received sentences ranging from 15 years to life in prison.

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

'Right-hand man'

It is estimated that as many as 100,000 people were killed as troops carried out massacres around the Shia holy cities of Najaf and Karbala, and shelled towns and villages across southern Iraq in the campaign.

Many Shia who participated in the uprising say they had expected US forces to back them, but former US President George Bush instead ordered his forces to halt at the Iraqi border, leaving the rebels at the mercy of Saddam's troops.

Often considered to be Saddam Hussein's right-hand man, Majid served as Iraq's defence minister.

And as a member of the decision-making Revolutionary Command Council, he was regularly called upon to crush regional uprisings.

He was given the nickname "Chemical Ali" for orchestrating the Anfal campaign and ordering poisonous gas attacks in a brutal scorched-earth campaign of bombings on Kurdish towns and villages in northern Iraq in 1988.

He has also been accused of ordering the gassing of 5,000 Kurds in the Kurdish village of Halabja, also in 1988.

Majid, 68 was arrested in August 2003 following the US invasion of Iraq.

He was first sentenced to hang in June 2007 for his role in the Anfal killings but his execution was held up by legal wrangling. He remains in American military custody.

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