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Hussein cousin denies killing Kurds

Says he ordered fighters moved, not executed

Ali Hassan al-Majid is one of six defendants who still face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. He said Saddam Hussein ordered him to pardon the Kurdish fighters. (Darko Vojinovic/Reuters)

BAGHDAD -- Saddam Hussein's cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid told a court yesterday that he ordered the displacement of Kurds from their villages in northern Iraq in the 1980s but denied allegations that he executed hundreds of Kurdish fighters.

Majid, known as "Chemical Ali" for allegedly using chemical weapons against the Kurds, is one of six defendants who still face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity stemming from a military campaign code-named Operation Anfal during the 1980 to 1988 Iran-Iraq war. More than 100,000 Kurds were killed.

Hussein was also charged in the case but was executed Dec. 30 after being found guilty in a separate trial of involvement in the deaths of 148 Shi'ite Muslims.

"I am responsible for the displacement and I took this decision on my own without going back to the high military command or Ba'ath Party officials," Majid said.

But Majid denied allegations that he had executed some 300 Kurdish rebels, adding that Hussein ordered him to pardon the despite their alleged confessions that they had committed crimes in an Arab village. Kurds, while mostly Sunni Muslims, are not Arabs.

Earlier, the prosecution played audiotapes said to be of Majid in which he described all Kurds as "saboteurs."

In another tape played in court, a voice said to be that of Majid could be heard saying that he had once received a letter from Jalal Talabani, the Kurdish leader and current president of Iraq, asking to hold talks and show willingness to present concessions with a condition that the government abstain from demolishing Kurdish villages.

The trial was adjourned until Jan. 23.