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Saddam's cousin shot dead Shi'ite rebels, court told

August 23, 2007

Saddam's cousin shot dead Shi'ite rebels, court told

By Ahmed Rasheed

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Saddam Hussein's cousin, widely known as "Chemical Ali", shot dead nearly 20 men suspected of taking part in a Shi'ite uprising after the 1991 Gulf War, a court trying him for crimes against humanity heard on Thursday. 

Ali Hassan al-Majeed, once one of the most feared men in Iraq, is on trial with 14 other defendants, most of them former military commanders, for their role in crushing the uprising in which the prosecution says up to 100,000 people were killed. 

Saddam Hussein's cousin Ali Hasan Al-Majeed, known as "Chemical Ali", stands in court as he listens to his verdict being pronounced by Chief Judge Mohammed Oraibi Al-Khalifa (not pictured) during the verdict trial session in Baghdad, June 24, 2007. (REUTERS/Joseph Eid/Pool/Files)
They face charges of crimes against humanity, which carry the death penalty. Majeed was sentenced to death earlier this year for masterminding a genocidal military campaign against Kurds in northern Iraq in 1988 that killed tens of thousands. 

The Shi'ite rebellion in southern Iraq, and a simultaneous one in Kurdish areas, erupted spontaneously in early March 1991 after a U.S.-led international coalition routed Saddam's army in Kuwait the previous month. 

When then U.S. President George Bush held back from invading Iraq, fearing that it would break up his carefully constructed coalition, Saddam swiftly counter-attacked against the rebels with tanks and helicopters. 

Gasim Mohammed, then a soldier in the Iraqi navy's logistics department in the southern city of Basra, told the Iraqi High Tribunal in Baghdad he had seen Majeed execute several men after he was arrested on suspicion of involvement in the rebellion. 

"The army arrested me. There were a bunch of us. They took us to the Industrial Institute building in Basra. I saw Ali Hassan al-Majeed with two women beside him. 

"They made us stand in line and the two women started to ... point out the involved ones. Every man they selected was immediately shot dead by Majeed. I remember him shooting two or three men with his own pistol." 

A second witness, Ali Hadi Jaber, a student at the time but now a policeman, said he was arrested with dozens of others and taken to a military detention facility in Basra. 

"They lined us up and Ali Hassan al-Majeed began indiscriminately selecting some men and shooting them with a collapsible AK-47 right through their hearts. 

"He shot dead 15 men. I saw that with my own eyes. He killed them all. They were from my town and I knew them." 

Majeed is appealing the death sentence he received in the earlier trial. If it is rejected he could be executed before the latest trial is completed. 

Majeed, dubbed Chemical Ali for his use of poison gas against ethnic Kurds, was seen as Saddam's main enforcer, a man with a reputation for brutality who was used by the president to crush dissent. 


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