Court hears Saddam's cousin ordered 200 executions

Other News Materials 25 September 2007 01:58 (UTC +04:00)

( Reuters ) - Saddam Hussein's cousin Ali Hassan al-Majeed ordered guards to execute a group of 200 people as he stamped out a Shi'ite uprising in 1991, a court trying him for crimes against humanity heard on Monday.

A witness told the court the man widely known as "Chemical Ali", already sentenced to death in a separate trial and due to be hanged soon, personally oversaw the killing of the first 25.

"People were executed at a sports centre. There were about 200," the witness, speaking from behind a curtain, told the court. "They were executed in batches -- 25 at a time."

"Ali Majeed was present for the execution of the first batch and then he told his guards to continue executing the others," he said, quoting testimony from one of his two sons who he said were rounded up by soldiers in March 1991.

Majeed is on trial with 14 other defendants, mostly former military commanders, for their role in crushing the Shi'ite rebellion after Iraq's 1991 Gulf War defeat. Prosecutors say up to 100,000 people were killed when the uprising was put down.

They face charges of crimes against humanity, which carry the death penalty. Majeed was sentenced to death earlier this year for masterminding a genocidal campaign against Kurds in northern Iraq in 1988 that killed tens of thousands.

An Iraqi appeal court upheld his death sentence on September 4 and under Iraqi law the sentence should be carried out within 30 days of the appeal court ruling.

Majeed shuffled into court on Monday with the aid of a stick, wearing black and white robes and looking gaunt but he angrily challenged the testimony of the witness, saying he was not even in the area when the alleged executions took place.