'Chemical Ali' Sentenced to Hang for Genocide of Kurds

Rubbar Mohammed visits the graves of family members killed in a chemical attack in 1998 in Halabja, Iraq. Ali Hassan al-Majeed, also known as
Rubbar Mohammed visits the graves of family members killed in a chemical attack in 1998 in Halabja, Iraq. Ali Hassan al-Majeed, also known as "Chemical Ali," and two other former Hussein officials were sentenced to hang for their roles in the deaths of as many as 180,000 Kurds. (By Yahya Ahmed -- Associated Press)
By John Ward Anderson
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, June 25, 2007

BAGHDAD, June 24 -- Three senior aides to Saddam Hussein were found guilty on Sunday of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity by the Iraqi High Tribunal and sentenced to death by hanging for their roles in the slaughter of as many as 180,000 Kurds in northern Iraq in the late 1980s.

The most notorious of the defendants, Ali Hassan al-Majeed -- a former general known as "Chemical Ali" -- received five death sentences for ordering the use of deadly mustard gas and nerve agents against the Kurds during the so-called Anfal campaign. Majeed and Hussein were cousins.

Hussein had been a defendant in the case but was executed last year for ordering the killings of 148 men and boys from the town of Dujail, 35 miles north of Baghdad, after a failed assassination attempt against him there in 1982.

Some Kurds said after Sunday's hearing, which was nationally televised, that they felt deprived of justice because of the rush to execute Hussein. The government had hoped his quick death would allow Iraqis to put the past behind them and focus on transforming the country into a functioning democracy.

"I wished they had kept Saddam alive and had not executed him until they finish all the trials, so all Iraqis, including Kurds, could feel that they had been repaid for the injustices of his regime," said Saman Mahmood Aziz, 55, a teacher whose wife and five children died during the Anfal campaign. But he added, "We feel so happy after seeing the verdict today against Chemical Ali."

But Sukaina Taqi Khurshid al-Hamawandi, 69, who lost 19 family members, including five sons, in the campaign, said: "I do not feel happy today for the verdict against my sons' murderers. This will not bring my family back."

Majeed, army commander of northern Iraq during the Anfal campaign, once was one of the most powerful and feared men in the country. In asking for the death penalty for him in April, prosecutor Munqith al-Faroun said Majeed was "the ultimate master of the genocide operations against the Kurds," while the other accused bore responsibility for a "plan that was implemented in stages to eliminate the Kurdish race from the north of Iraq."

Also sentenced to hang were Hussein Rashid al-Tikriti, 66, former armed forces deputy chief of operations, and Sultan Hashim al-Tai, 67, a former defense minister.

All three men were found guilty of genocide, which is defined as the systematic elimination of a group of people because of their religion, race, ethnicity or nationality. Each was also sentenced to death on separate charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes.

As his sentence was read, Tikriti, wearing a traditional red-checkered Arabic headdress, repeatedly interrupted Chief Judge Mohammed al-Uraibiy, saying at one point: "Thank God! We defended Iraq. We are not agents."

When Uraibiy finished listing Tikriti's three death sentences and announced a seven-year sentence for attacking religious buildings, Tikriti laughed.

"Thank God we did not become traitors, cowards, agents nor thieves," he said. "Long live the glorious Iraqi army!"

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