'Chemical Ali' hospitalized after hunger strike

April 21, 2008 5:46:13 PM PDT
A cousin of Saddam Hussein known as "Chemical Ali" has been hospitalized after a hunger strike to protest his treatment during a complex legal and political fight that has delayed his death sentence for months, a defense lawyer said Monday. Ali Hassan al-Majid, who got his nickname for ordering chemical weapons attacks on ethnic Kurds, and co-defendant Abdul-Ghani Abdul-Ghafour were admitted to a U.S. medical facility Sunday after they passed out, the attorney said.

The U.S. military confirmed al-Majid was hospitalized Sunday and said he was in stable condition. It could not immediately confirm the information about Abdul-Ghafour or provide more details.

Al-Majid has been sentenced to hang for his role in the brutal crackdown on Kurds in the 1980s. He is also on trial in a separate case stemming from the suppression of a 1991 Shiite uprising against Saddam's Sunni-dominated regime.

Defense lawyer Badee Izzat Aref said al-Majid, Abdul-Ghafour and 13 other co-defendants in the trial started a hunger strike Friday to protest being forced to stay in cramped quarters at the courthouse instead of their cells at the U.S. detention facility Camp Cropper.

The defendants complained they had to share small cells with a joint bathroom instead of their larger quarters at Camp Cropper, Aref said by telephone from Amman, Jordan. He said they were told they would have to stay at the courthouse until the next trial session May 13.

Al-Majid was one of three former Saddam officials sentenced to death in June after being convicted by an Iraqi court of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for their part in the Operation Anfal crackdown that killed nearly 200,000 Kurdish civilians and guerrillas.

But influential Sunni Arabs and President Jalal Talabani intervened and insisted that one of al-Majid's fellow defendants - former defense minister Sultan Hashim al-Taie - be spared the gallows. That delayed the execution of all three.

In February, the three-member presidential council, which includes Talabani and Iraq's two vice presidents, agreed to al-Majid's execution, but it did not approve the death sentences against the other two.

No date for al-Majid's execution has been announced.


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