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Iraq parliament speaker objects to execution of Saddam-era defense minister

[JURIST] Iraqi parliament speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani Thursday objected to the execution of former Saddam Hussein-era Defense Minister Sultan Hashim Ahmed al-Tai [TrialWatch profile], joining a group of Iraqi political leaders speaking out against the planned execution. Al-Mashhadani said that executing al-Tai would cause military officers to question their commanders' orders out of fear that they could be held accountable after the governing regime changes. Iraqi President Jalal Talabani [BBC profile] last month objected to al-Tai's planned execution [JURIST report], saying that al-Tai should receive clemency because he was only acting under the threat of death from Hussein and had worked with the Kurdish community while he was an official in Hussein's regime. A prosecutor has said that any death sentence must be approved by the government and the president's office, and Talabani has said he will not approve the execution. The Appeals Chamber of the Iraqi High Tribunal [official website] last month upheld [JURIST report] al-Tai's death sentence and has also said that a death sentence need not be approved [JURIST report] by the president's office. The US has not handed over custody of al-Tai [JURIST report], saying they are waiting for a proper request from Talabani.

Al-Tai and two other former officials from Saddam Hussein's regime, including Hussein's cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid - known in the Western media as "Chemical Ali" [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] - were all convicted in June of war crimes and crimes against humanity for their role in the slaughter of tens of thousands of Kurds during the 1988 Anfal Campaign [HRW backgrounder]. Al-Majid has repeatedly denied the allegations [JURIST report], saying that he does not know who used chemical weapons or "if they were ever used." Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive] was also a co-defendant in the Anfal genocide trial [JURIST news archive] before he was executed in December 2006. Talabani similarly refused to sign Hussein's death warrant [JURIST report], invoking his general opposition to the death penalty. That death warrant was subsequently signed by Talabani's vice-presidents. AP has more.

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