15 December 2004Ali Hassan al-Majid, widely known as "Chemical Ali", will be the first of Saddam Hussein's top aides to be tried, Iraqi's interim government has said.
The trial could begin as early as next week, Defence Minister Hazim al-Shalaan told reporters in Baghdad.
Mr al-Majid is accused of some of the worst crimes committed by the regime, including the gassing of Iraqi Kurds.
There is no indication of when Saddam Hussein will face trial. He and 11 top regime figures are in US custody.
"In the next few days, we will have the trial of Ali Hassan al-Majid, one of the close followers of Saddam Hussein," Mr al-Shalaan said.
However, he did not specify exactly when, saying only that it would be held "next week, maybe, or in the middle of next month", Reuters reported.
His comments came a day after Iraq's interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi announced that the "symbols" of Saddam Hussein's regime would begin next week.
Observers say the timing of his surprise announcement could be linked to the Iraqi elections planned for 30 January.
Lawyers representing members of the old regime have said their clients will not recognise the legitimacy of any courts established under US occupation.
Saddam Hussein's Jordan-based lawyers say they have not even seen him.
"The Iraqi court will be in violation of the basic rights of the defendants, which is to have access to legal counsel while being interrogated and indicted," Ziad al-Khasawneh told the Associated Press.
International legal experts have also voiced concern that the trials are being rushed and that defendants will not get a fair hearing.
Mr al-Majid, the Iraqi president's cousin, was a top powerbroker in the Baathist government.
He earned his nickname after leading the chemical attack on Kurds in Halabja during an offensive in 1987.
He is also accused of masterminding the killing of hundreds of thousands in the wake of the big uprisings against Saddam Hussein in 1991 after the first Gulf War.
In April 2003, it was initially thought he had been killed in a coalition air strike in the southern city of Basra, but in August that year he was captured by the US military.
Source: BBC News,
15 December 2004