Saddam's killer henchman 'Chemical' Ali will be hanged 'within a month'

Last updated at 13:08 29 February 2008

Saddam Hussein's cousin and henchman "Chemical Ali" will be executed within a month after being convicted of genocide, it emerged today.

He was condemned to death for his role in the 1988 Anfal campaign against the Kurds in northern Iraq, in which an estimated 180,000 people died.

Chemical Ali - real name Hassan al-Majid - was convicted on genocide charges and initially sentenced to death in June last year.

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Hassan al-Majid

The warrant was signed two days ago and is to be carried out within 28 days, Iraq's presidency revealed today.

He was convicted along with two other top officials - Hussein Rashid al-Tikriti, a senior military chief, and the former defence minister, Sultan Hashem.

The trio were supposed to have been hanged by October, but legal wranglings have held up the process.

The presidency, which is made up of President Jalal Talabani and two vice-presidents, has not yet approved the hanging of al-Tikriti and Hashem, sources at the presidency said.

"There are different points of view regarding the others that need to be resolved," a source said.

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Al-Majid would be the fifth former regime official hanged for alleged atrocities against Iraqis during Saddam's nearly three-decades rule.

Saddam, who also had been a defendant in the so-called Anfal trial, was hanged December 30, 2006, for ordering the killings of more than 140 Shiite Muslims from the Iraqi city of Dujail following a 1982 assassination attempt against him.

A government adviser, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorised to release the information, said Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and U.S. officials had been informed of the decision by phone and a meeting was planned to decide when and where the execution should take place.

A senior American military official said the military was aware the order had been signed, and that the date for the execution would be determined by the Iraqi government.

The other two men remain in U.S. custody but are under the jurisdiction of the Iraqi government, the official said, declining to be identified ahead of an official announcement.

Prosecutor Jaafar al-Moussawi, who said he had received word of the decision from the presidential council, said there was a legal basis for the execution of "Chemical Ali" but not of the other two.

He said no law existed that could force the presidential council to endorse the execution of all three, so it had the prerogative to just sign off on one of the orders.

An appeals court upheld the verdicts against the three in September.

Under Iraqi law the executions were to have taken place within a month.

But they were put on hold after Sunni leaders including Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi launched a campaign to spare the life of al-Taie.

President Jalal Talabani, himself a Kurd, had also refused to sign the order against al-Taie, a Sunni Arab from the northern city of Mosul who signed the cease-fire that ended the 1991 Gulf War.

Al-Taie again surrendered to U.S. forces in September 2003 after weeks of negotiations.

His defense has claimed the Americans had promised him "protection and good treatment" before he turned himself in.

Many Sunni Arabs saw his sentence as evidence that Shiite and Kurdish officials are persecuting their once-dominant minority and as a sign of Shiite influence over the judiciary, raising concerns the executions could ignite retaliatory sectarian attacks.

The case also strained relations between al-Maliki's Shiite-led government and U.S. officials.

In late November, the Shiite prime minister asked President George Bush to hand over "Chemical Ali" and the other two former regime officials.

The officials said al-Hashemi had refused to agree to the executions of the other two because he considered them career soldiers following orders.

There have been little calls for leniency, however, regarding al-Majid, nicknamed "Chemical Ali" for ordering poison gas attacks that killed thousands.

Besides Saddam, his half brother and former intelligence chief Barzan Ibrahim, and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, former head of Iraq's Revolutionary Court - were hanged in January 2007, prompting criticism from human rights groups.

Saddam's former vice president, Taha Yassin Ramadan, had been sentenced to life in prison for his role in Dujail but was executed in March after the court decided this was too lenient.

Three other defendants were sentenced to 15 years in jail in the Dujail case, while one was acquitted.

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