(Reuters) - An Iraqi court on Sunday sentenced Saddam Hussein’s cousin Ali Hassan al-Majeed, known as “Chemical Ali”, to death by hanging for his role in a military campaign against ethnic Kurds in the 1980s that killed tens of thousands.
Guilty verdicts were also delivered against four of five former high-ranking officials of Saddam Hussein’s regime accused of leading the so-called Anfal campaign. Charges were dropped against a fifth.
Majeed was the most prominent defendant. He was once one of the most feared men in Iraq.
Charges against Saddam, originally the seventh defendant, lapsed when he was executed in December in a separate case.
Following are details about the campaign and the defendants:
- The military offensives were codenamed Anfal -- Spoils of War -- after the title of the eighth chapter of the Koran and took place from February until late August 1988.
- Estimates of deaths made by Kurdish and international groups range from tens of thousands to 180,000.
- During the trial, prosecutors showed memorandums from military intelligence, the president’s office and military commanders detailing the chain of command and orders given for the use of mustard gas and nerve agents.
- The trial opened on August 21, 2006, and heard dozens of witnesses who described chemical air attacks, villages being burned and Kurds being rounded up and tortured.
- Thousands of Kurds, including many women and children, were taken from their villages, executed and then dumped in mass graves in northern and southern Iraq, prosecutors said.
- Certain areas were declared “out of bounds to all persons and animals” and troops were allowed to open fire at will.
- Defence lawyers argued that Anfal was a legitimate military operation against Kurdish militias who sided with Iran in the 1980-1988 war. Saddam said he would take responsibility “with honour” for any attacks on Iran using conventional or chemical weapons but denied using poison gas on Iraqis.
- The chemical attack on the village of Halabja in March 1988, which killed 5,000 people, is not seen as part of Anfal.
All defendants faced charges of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. The prosecution sought the death penalty against five of the accused but called for charges to be dropped against Taher al-Ani for lack of evidence.
- Ali Hassan al-Majeed, Saddam’s cousin and alleged architect of Anfal. Nicknamed “Chemical Ali” for ordering gas attacks, he was head of the Northern Bureau Command. Majeed was given powers comparable to those of Saddam himself in the north. Sentenced to death.
- Sabir al-Douri, director of military intelligence. Sentenced to life in prison.
- Taher al-Ani, head of the Northern Affairs Committee and governor of Mosul province. Charges dropped.
- Hussein Rashid Muhammad, deputy of operations for the Iraqi Armed Forces. Sentenced to death.
- Farhan Salih, head of military intelligence in the Eastern Regional Office. Sentenced to life in prison.
- Sultan Hashim, commander of Task Force Anfal and Iraqi Army First Corps. He later served as defence minister. Sentenced to death.
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