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Iraq's Chemical Ali Given Third Death Sentence

Ali Hassan al-Majid appears in court in 2007
BAGHDAD (Reuters) -- Saddam Hussein's top henchman and cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid -- known in the West as "Chemical Ali" -- has been handed given his third death sentence by an Iraqi court, this one for his involvement in killing and displacing Shi'ite Muslims in 1999.

Al-Majid, who earned notoriety for his role in using poison gas to kill thousands of Kurdish villagers, was condemned to death for "premeditated killing as a crime against humanity" and displacing civilians in raids on their homes.

His previous sentences were for masterminding a genocidal campaign against Kurds in the 1980s and killing thousands of Shi'a in a crackdown on their uprising after the 1991 Gulf War. Those executions have been held up by political wrangling.

In the latest case, the Iraqi military were ordered into Shi'ite areas, mainly in Baghdad, to prevent demonstrations after the assassination of revered Shi'ite cleric Mohammed Sadeq al-Sadr.

Of the 14 defendants, two others were sentenced to death and four were jailed for life, including Abed Hamid Mahmud, who was Saddam's personal secretary at the time.

The court acquitted former Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz -- also facing another trial for his alleged involvement in executing dozens of merchants accused of breaking state price controls in 1992.

The Iraqi High Tribunal was set up in 2003, after the U.S. invasion, to try former members of Hussein's government. It was the court that sentenced the former dictator to death.

New York-based Human Rights Watch estimates 290,000 people vanished under Hussein's regime, many of their bodies heaped in ditches.

Saddam was executed in December 2006 after being convicted of crimes against humanity for the killing of 148 Shi'ite men and boys after a 1982 assassination attempt.

His half-brother Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti was executed two weeks later in a botched hanging that tore off his head. Two other members of the former government have also been executed.