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'Chemical Ali' denies killing civilians during Saddam rule

[JURIST] Ali Hassan al-Majid [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], better known in the Western media as "Chemical Ali", denied involvement in the killing of Shi'ite civilians at a demonstration during the reign of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Al-Majid is charged with crimes against humanity for his alleged role in the violent suppression of a predominately Shi'a protest [HRW backgrounder] in southern Iraq following the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Al-Masjid has already been sentenced to death for the killing of Kurdish Iraqis using chemical weapons during the 1988 Anfal campaign [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. He denied the killing of any civilians, but admitted that he and his troops did open fire on people he characterized as Shi'ite insurgents, and that they also executed an Iranian man he believed was a threat. AP has more.

Al-Majid was absent [JURIST report] at the beginning of the trial due to a heart attack brought on by a self-imposed hunger strike. His death sentence in the Anfal case was upheld on appeal last September, but Iraq's Presidency Council did not approve the execution [JURIST reports] until late February. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government said in early March that al-Majid would not be executed [JURIST report] until the Presidency Council approved the death sentences of al-Majid's two co-defendants. He continues to be held by US forces in Iraq.

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