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Iraq court begins new trial for 'Chemical Ali'

[JURIST] An Iraqi court on Sunday began a new trial for Ali Hassan al-Majid [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], better known in the Western media as "Chemical Ali," and three other Saddam Hussein-era officials accused in a 1998 gas attack that killed 5,000 Kurds. The relatives of the plaintiffs were allegedly gassed to death in the Kurdish village of Halabja. Hundreds of Kurds called for the execution [Reuters report] of al-Majid, who has already been sentenced to death twice. Also facing trial are former defense minister Sultan Hashem and two intelligence officers.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal [governing statute, PDF] sentenced al-Majid to death [JURIST report] for his involvement in the repression of Shiites in southern Iraq during the Saddam regime. Al-Majid has also been sentenced to death for the killing of Kurdish Iraqis using chemical weapons during the 1988 Anfal campaign [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. His death sentence in the Anfal case was upheld on appeal in September 2007, 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 in that case.

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