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'Chemical Ali' execution would be against 'legitimate expectations': lawyer

[JURIST] A defense lawyer for Ali Hassan al-Majid [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], better known in Western media as "Chemical Ali," has told JURIST that he expects to file a petition Wednesday against the planned execution of al-Majid. In the application, Giovanni Di Stefano [firm website] will argue that the former Iraqi commander and governor of northern Iraq now subject to a death sentence for the killing of Kurds in the 1988 Anfal campaign should not be executed because he was captured by the US military during the administration of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) [official website], which had abolished the death penalty. According to Di Stefano, al-Majid and other Iraqi leaders who surrendered or were captured during the CPA's reign, including Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive] and former Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan [Trial Watch profile; JURIST news archive], had no "legitimate expectation" that they would be subject to capital punishment. Di Stefano, who is filing petitions in Arabic and English in the Iraqi High Tribunal [official website], insists that "[a]ny execution during these challenges would be tantamount to premeditated murder".

The Iraqi High Tribunal sentenced [JURIST report] al-Majid to death in June on genocide and war crimes charges. The Tribunal's Appeals Chamber upheld the death sentence [JURIST report] in September but the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki delayed [JURIST report] the execution, which was required to be performed within 30 days of sentencing, due to the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

Al-Majid's planned hanging has prompted intense legal controversy within Iraq. Several members of Iraq's Presidency Council, which includes Kurdish President Jalal Talibani, Shi'ite Vice-President Adel Abdul-Mahdi, and Sunni Vice-President Tareq al-Hashemi, have refused to sign the execution order [JURIST report]. An Iraqi judge said last month that presidential approval is not required [JURIST report] to carry out an execution, but al-Hashemi reasserted Tuesday that the presidency did in fact have the power to block the carrying out of the death sentences [AP report], regardless of their approval by al-Maliki.

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