[JURIST] Saddam Hussein's cousin and former Iraqi defense minister Ali Hassan al-Majid [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], also known as Chemical Ali, ordered the execution of 25 villagers at a time as he crushed a Shi'a uprising [HRW backgrounder] in southern Iraq following the 1991 Persian Gulf War, according to testimony Monday in the crimes against humanity trial [JURIST report] ongoing at the Iraqi High Tribunal. A witness speaking from behind a curtain testified that his son was among those executed. The witness said that al-Majid ordered the executions of about 200 people, in batches of 25 at a time; the bodies were later found in a mass grave. Al-Majid responded that he was not even in Basra at the time. Monday's session of the trial opened with al-Majid and another defendant asking for an adjournment, saying their lawyers were afraid to attend court and had asked for protection from the US military. The request was refused.
Al-Majid and 14 other former Saddam Hussein-era officials are on trial for their role in the government's violent response to the uprising, during which tens of thousands of civilians were killed. They are charged with crimes against humanity and could face the death penalty. Al-Majid has already been sentenced to death [JURIST report] for his role in the 1988 Anfal campaign [HRW backgrounder] that slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Kurds. The Iraqi High Tribunal's Appeals Chamber upheld the death sentences [JURIST report] of three defendants in the Anfal case, including al-Majid, on September 4; Iraqi law requires the executions to take place within 30 days of the court ruling. The new case is the third in a series of trials involving Hussein-era officials [JURIST news archive]. The first was the Dujail case [BBC timeline] involving crimes against humanity committed in that Iraqi town in 1982, which resulted in the hangings of Hussein and his co-defendants. AFP has more.