Chemical Ali sentenced to death for third time

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Ali Hassan al-Majeed, a former official in Saddam Hussein's regime known as "Chemical Ali", was given a third death sentence yesterday for his role in killing and displacing Shi'ite Muslims in 1999.

"The court condemns Ali Hassan al-Majeed to death by hanging for jointly committing premeditated killing, as a crime against humanity," Judge Mohammed al-Uraibi said.

Majeed, a cousin of Saddam, earned his nickname for his role in using poison gas to kill thousands of Kurdish villagers.

His previous sentences were for masterminding a campaign against Kurds in the 1980s and killing thousands of Shi'ites in a crackdown on their uprising after the 1991 Gulf War. Those executions have been held up by political wrangling.

In the latest case, Majeed was said to have sent the Iraqi military into Shi'ite areas, mainly in Baghdad, to stop people gathering for Friday prayers after the assassination of revered Shi'ite cleric Mohammed Mohammed Sadeq al-Sadr.

The soldiers opened fire on civilians and destroyed homes in the ensuing clashes.

Majeed, wearing traditional Arab headdress and looking frail, said nothing and showed no emotion as charges were read.

Of the 14 defendants in the case, two others were sentenced to death and four were given life in prison, including Abed Hamid Mahmoud, who was Saddam's personal secretary at the time.