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Saddam kin 'Chemical Ali' to hang for 1988 massacre

BAGHDAD - Saddam Hussein's notorious cousin, "Chemical Ali," was convicted yesterday and sentenced to hang for ordering the most infamous of his crimes, the attacks against the Kurdish town of Halabja that killed more than 5,000 people in clouds of poisonous gas.

The fourth death sentence against Ali Hassan al-Majid for crimes against humanity serves as a reminder that victims of Saddam's atrocities remain determined to seek justice, as some politicians stoke the lingering bitterness.

For the still-suffering victims of the assault on Halabja more than two decades ago, the verdict brought a sense of closure to an event that came to symbolize the brutality of Saddam's rule.

Al-Majid's previous sentences have not been carried out, in part because Halabja survivors wanted to have their case against him heard. Politics also plays a role, with a three-member presidential council representing Iraq's leading factions of Shias, Sunni Arabs and Kurds unable to agree to sign off on an earlier execution order.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shia who is seeking re-election in March, has taken a tough stance against former members of Saddam's now banned Baath Party.

Relatives of Halabja's victims clapped and embraced in a screened-off corner of the courtroom following the guilty verdict against al-Majid, one of the chief architects of Saddam's repression. He is one of the last high-profile members of the former regime still on trial, and he still faces charges in several other cases.

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