BAGHDAD (Reuters) - An Iraqi court sentenced Ali Hassan al-Majeed, the Saddam Hussein henchman widely known as “Chemical Ali,” to death by hanging Sunday for a 1988 gas attack that killed about 5,000 Kurds.
Majeed, a cousin of Saddam’s who earned his nickname because of his use of poison gas, was convicted of crimes against humanity for an attack on the Iraqi Kurdish town of Halabja. He already faces death sentences in three other cases.
“Thanks to God,” Majeed said when the sentence was read.
Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said the execution would take place “very soon.”
“It will not take a long time for Hassan al-Majeed to receive his just punishment for the crimes he committed against the Iraqi people,” Dabbagh told Reuters, declining to give a timeframe.
The Iraqi High Tribunal also sentenced former Defense Minister Sultan Hashem and former military intelligence chief Sabir al-Douri to 15 years in prison each for the attack, and Abd Mutlaq al-Jubouri, a former regional intelligence chief, to 10 years.
Majeed was captured in August 2003, five months after U.S. forces invaded Iraq. He had a reputation for ruthlessness in crushing Saddam’s opponents that won him widespread notoriety. Many Iraqis feared him more than the leader himself.
He was sentenced to hang in June 2007 for his role in a military campaign against ethnic Kurds, codenamed Anfal, that lasted from February to August of 1988.
Majeed also received a death sentence in December 2008 for his role in crushing a Shi’ite revolt after the 1991 Gulf War and another in March 2009 for his involvement in killing and displacing Shi’ite Muslims in 1999.
Disputes within Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s Shi’ite-led government have so far stalled Majeed’s execution.
Saddam was executed in December 2006 after being convicted of crimes against humanity for the killing of 148 Shi’ite men and boys following a 1982 assassination attempt.
About 290,000 people disappeared in Iraq under Saddam’s rule from 1979 to 2003, according to estimates by New York-based Human Rights Watch. The Iraqi High Tribunal was set up after the 2003 U.S. invasion to try former members of his government.
Additional reporting by Muhanad Mohammed and Ahmed Rasheed; writing by Jim Loney; Editing by Michael Christie and Elizabeth Fullerton