BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq will put off carrying out the death sentence against Saddam Hussein’s cousin, widely known as “Chemical Ali,” until the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in 10 days time, the prime minister said on Wednesday.
An Iraqi appeals court upheld Ali Hassan al-Majeed’s death sentence at a hearing on September 4, with the sentence to be carried out within 30 days of that decision. That deadline was to expire on Thursday.
“We seek a legal path for postponement because we do not want the execution this time to be carried out during Ramadan,” Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki told a news conference.
The Muslim fasting month of Ramadan will end in about 10 days.
Majeed, former Defense Minister Sultan Hashim and Saddam’s former army chief of staff Hussein Rashid were sentenced to death in June for planning and directing a military campaign in 1988 that prosecutors said killed up to 180,000 Kurds.
Rumors had swirled soon after the appeal court decision that Maliki’s Shi’ite-led government would move to hang Majeed before the start of Ramadan last month but he remains in custody in a U.S. detention facility.
Sunni Arabs, dominant under Saddam, accused the government of acting with unseemly haste in carrying out Saddam’s death sentence on December 30, four days after a court rejected his appeal in a separate case.
Sunni Arab governments, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia, also criticized the timing of the execution, which took place at the start of the Eid al-Adha religious feast.
Majeed has also gone on trial for his role in crushing a Shi’ite rebellion in southern Iraq in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War. Prosecutors in that case had warned he could be executed before the trial was completed.