Iraq court to deliver 'Chemical Ali', Aziz verdict
Wed, Mar 11, 2009

BAGHDAD - An Iraqi court is due to give verdicts on Wednesday for Saddam Hussein's hatchetman "Chemical Ali" Hassan al-Majid and former deputy prime minister Tareq Aziz in the 1992 murders of 42 traders.

Majid and Aziz, 73, and six other defendants have been charged with crimes against humanity in a trial that opened in April last year. They risk the death penalty if found guilty.

The charges relate to the killing of merchants in Baghdad who were accused of speculating on food prices when the country was under punishing UN sanctions imposed after its invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

The hearing at the Iraqi High Tribunal follows a verdict delivered on March 2 that condemned Majid to his third death sentence over the murder of Shiite Muslims 10 years ago.

However, the court acquitted Aziz, at one time Saddam's spokesman to the outside world, on the same charges of crimes against humanity.

Majid was sentenced to death in June 2007 for genocide after ordering the deaths of tens of thousands of Kurds during the 1988 Anfal campaign, when Iraqi forces strafed villages with poison gas, the source of his grim nickname.\

He was also given a second death penalty for war crimes and crimes against humanity over a bloody crackdown on Shiites during their ill-fated uprising after the 1991 Gulf War.

He and Aziz, whose acquittal on March 2 was the first verdict from four trials in which he is a defendant, are also accused of displacing and killing about 2,000 clansmen of Kurdish regional president Massud Barzani.

The two men, along with former interior minister Watban Ibrahim Hassan and Saddam's private secretary Abed Hamud, are among 16 former officials on trial for a brutal 1980s campaign against Shiite Kurds.

They are accused of using members of the Fayli Kurdish community as guinea pigs for chemicals weapons testing and as human shields during Iraq's war with neighbouring Iran from 1980 to 1988.

Aziz, the only Christian in Saddam's inner circle, has said he was proud to have been a member of the now disbanded Baath party.

He has also stated that could not be held responsible for the charges against him in the deaths of the Baghdad merchants.

He had turned himself in to US forces in April 2003 after Saddam's regime was overthrown, but his son last year complained that he was being held in very bad conditions in custody and was suffering from a variety of ailments.

Chemical Ali, a former defence minister and cousin of the executed dictator, has shown no remorse for his part in the crimes for which he stands accused.


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