'Chemical Ali' to be hanged within days

Ali Hassan al-Majid sentenced to death by Iraq's high criminal court for ordering slaughter of Kurds in 1988

One of Saddam Hussein's most loathed henchman, Ali Hassan al-Majid, otherwise known as Chemical Ali, will be hanged within days, a senior official said tonight, setting the scene for Iraq's highest profile execution since Saddam himself was put to death more than three years ago.

The former spy chief and first cousin of Saddam was today sentenced to death for ordering the slaughter of more than 5,000 Kurds in the northern Iraqi town of Halabja with chemical weapons in 1988.

It was the fourth death sentence the 68-year-old has received for atrocities committed during the brutal three-decade reign of the Ba'athists. Iraq's deputy justice minister, Busho Ibrahim, said Majid's execution was now imminent.

"We will receive Chemical Ali from the Americans in the next few days and he will be executed very soon afterwards," said Ibrahim. Majid was sentenced by Iraq's high criminal court. All remaining prosecutions he faces are now expected to be set aside.

Separately, the Guardian has learned that the US detention centre in which Majid has been held since being captured six years ago will continue to house prisoners until August, despite being scheduled to close on 31 December as part of a much-heralded security agreement between Washington and Baghdad. The status of forces agreement signed between both states had flagged the ­closure of the Camp Cropper detention centre as a milestone of security progress.

The US president, Barack Obama, had been personally involved in ordering its closure and the end of the contentious system used in Iraq where suspected militants could be detained by US forces, often with limited judicial redress.

Ibrahim said the extension of the US detention programme had been requested by Iraq. "We asked for this delay because we do not yet have enough staff who can deal with all the prisoners. We are still training them and we are making plans to receive the rest, hopefully by March."

Another official, interior ministry intelligence chief, Hussein Kamal, said the delay had been caused by a lack of space in Iraq's prisons and limited capacity in its courts. "There has been a limited extension asked for and granted," said Kamal.

Among those still in Camp Cropper, inside the US Victory base near Baghdad airport in the west of the city, is the former Iraqi foreign minister Tariq Aziz, who was reported to have suffered a stroke in his cell over the weekend that has left him partially paralysed and unable to speak.

Aziz and other Saddam loyalists are due to be moved to a Iraqi/US prison in Camp Taji, a military base north of Baghdad that will also house detainees considered by the US military too dangerous to free, or to hand over to Iraqi officials. "A total of 29 of the Saddam regime loyalists are already in Taji," said Ibrahim. "The rest will join them when they are transferred from Cropper."

The Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is continuing to move against former Ba'athists whom he claims are mounting a subversive threat to the government ahead of the 7 March general election. Over the past month, a pirate television channel touting Saddam's legacy has briefly hit the airwaves, along with newly erected banners of support in his hometown of Tikrit.

About 400 Sunni candidates have also been banned from contesting the poll as part of a push to rid alleged regime elements from government. The move has sparked fury among sections of the Sunni population and has been met with mounting concern by American officials who were preparing for a post-election mass withdrawal of US troops on the back of supposed security gains.


Martin Chulov

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Chemical Ali to be executed within 30 days

Iraqi president approves death sentence of Saddam Hussain's cousin, who was responsible for the gassing of up to 200,000 Kurds

Allegra Stratton and agencies

29, Feb, 2008 @10:33 AM

Article image
Iraq executes Chemical Ali

Ali Hassan al-Majid was notorious for the gassing of more than 5,000 Kurds in 1988 and other brutal campaigns

Mark Tran

25, Jan, 2010 @4:13 PM

Article image
'Mossad talked of killing Khomeini': an interview with a former agent
On anniversary of Ayatollah Khomeini’s death, former Mossad agent Yossi Alpher explains Israel’s continuing concerns over Iran and its ‘secret’ relations with Saudi Arabia

Gareth Smyth for Tehran Bureau

05, Jun, 2015 @3:06 PM

Article image
Ahmed Chalabi: Iraqi exile whose reputation waned after return
Hailed as a transformative figure before the ousting of Saddam Hussein, Chalabi was sidelined by the US government within 15 months

Martin Chulov in Beirut

03, Nov, 2015 @6:16 PM

Obama is right to be cautious over Syria's possible use of sarin – but then?

The debacle of the Bush administration's rush to judgment over Saddam Hussein's 'WMD' shows why the US is in a quandary

Julian Borger, Diplomatic editor

25, Apr, 2013 @9:06 PM

Article image
Kurdish forces in big push against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria
Peshmerga fighters tighten noose around Mosul as Iraqi forces target Falluja and Syrians advance north of Raqqa stronghold

Fazel Hawramy in east Mosul

29, May, 2016 @3:46 PM

Article image
Jalal Talabani obituary
Prominent Kurdish politician who was the first non-Arab to become the president of Iraq

Lawrence Joffe

04, Oct, 2017 @3:39 PM

Article image
If only the west’s motives for Syria strikes were more principled | Letters
Letters: The taboo on chemical weapons doesn’t seem to apply to making and selling other instruments of mass destruction


23, Apr, 2018 @5:03 PM

Article image
Iraq war still casts a long shadow over a dangerous and deeply unstable region
As the Chilcot report is released, the war’s toxic legacy – hateful sectarianism, the rise of al-Qaida and Isis – is still generating headlines 13 years on

Ian Black Middle East editor

07, Jul, 2016 @5:00 AM

Article image
Tony Blair, the Chilcot report and the legacy of Iraq | Letters
Letters: As far as the aftermath is concerned, Syria shows only too plainly what happens if you don’t intervene while Libya shows what can happen if you do


08, Jun, 2016 @6:06 PM