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Iraq To Consider Unjustly Accused In Hussein Era

Saddam Hussein reacts to his death sentence at his trial in Baghdad on November 5, 2006.
BAGHDAD (Reuters) -- Iraq's government is considering reprieving some Iraqis deemed to have been unjustly targeted in moves to seize the assets of those close to ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, a top official has said.

A government spokesman said a bill would set up a committee to decide whether some of those whose assets had been frozen since Hussein's ouster in 2003 might have been wrongly accused.

"There are many people whose assets have been seized that were not guilty...Some peoples' assets were frozen because they were from Tikrit or from the army," spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said, referring to Hussein's hometown.

"So that we can free up their funds, the number of people whose assets are targeted for seizure has been narrowed down and they will remain off the list unless the opposite is proved."

A statement from Dabbagh's office listed 52 people close to Hussein, including top aides like Ali Hassan al-Majeed, known as "Chemical Ali" for his role in gassing minority Kurds, whose assets have been frozen.

Hussein's family members' assets have also been frozen.

Hussein, a Sunni Muslim who ruled the majority Shi'ite nation with an iron fist from 1979 until 2003, was executed in 2006 by the government of Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

Some minority Sunnis have complained that Maliki has unfairly marginalized those even loosely connected to Hussein's government, and has dragged its feet in implementing steps to reverse the purge of thousands of Ba'ath party members from government jobs in 2003.

Maliki's government says it will embrace former Ba'athists but not those with blood on their hands.

Some on the list are jailed and facing trial, some have been sentenced to death, and others are still at large.

Dabbagh said the new committee would be headed by Deputy Prime Minister Rafie al-Esawi, a Sunni Arab, and would include Iraq's justice minister and other officials.

The proposed bill would have to be approved by parliament.