‘Chemical Ali’ sentenced to death a third time

An Iraqi court on Monday sentenced to death a former Iraqi general known as "Chemical Ali" for his role in putting down a uprising in Baghdad a decade ago, Iraqi state TV reported.

It is the third death sentence for Ali Hasan al-Majeed, a cousin of Saddam Hussein, the former Iraqi dictator. Also Monday, Tariq Aziz, the former deputy prime minister and foreign minister, was acquitted along with three other former members of the Hussein regime. A number of other former officials were sentenced to life in prison, but it was not immediately clear who the officials were. The latest death sentence for al-Majeed stems from the suppression of a Shiite rebellion in the heavily Shiite district of Baghdad that is now called Sadr City. That suppression caused several deaths and injuries. Al-Majeed has been on death row for more than a year. He first was convicted for his role in the 1988 Anfal campaign, where he earned his nickname for using poison gas against Kurds in northern Iraq. Thousands of people died. Two other Hussein-era officials, Sultan Hashem Ahmed and Hussein Rashid Mohammed, also were sentenced to death alongside him in June 2007. Al-Majeed later was convicted of playing a key part in the slaughter of thousands of Shiite Muslims during a revolt in southern Iraq that followed the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Estimates of the Shiite death toll range from 20,000 to 100,000.

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Al-Majeed and other former members of Hussein’s regime remain in U.S. custody. His execution has been delayed for political rather than legal reasons. Ahmed, one of the co-defendants in the Anfal case, is a prominent Sunni leader who is considered a key player in efforts to reconcile the country’s once-dominant Sunni community with the Shiite majority that now wields political power. Iraq’s president and vice presidents have been reluctant to sign an order to execute him — delaying the execution of al-Majeed and Mohammed as well.