London, Asharq Al-Awsat – The eldest son of former Iraqi deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz, described the death sentenced issued against hi father as being “harsh and unexpected.” He also claimed that this decision was part of a “process of retaliation” against the former Saddam Hussein regime and his father, by the “ruling Islamic Dawa party who tried to kill him in 1980 at the Al-Mustansiriya University” in Baghdad.
Iraq’s high criminal court sentenced three former Iraqi officials to “death by hanging” yesterday for their involvement in “eliminating religious parties” in Iraq. The three former Iraqi officials are; former Iraqi foreign minister and deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz, former Iraqi Interior Minister Sadoun Shakir, and former private secretary to Saddam Hussein, Abed Hammoud. The court clarified that they had been found guilty of persecuting Iraqi Shiite Muslims, particularly following a failed assassination attempt against Saddam Hussein and Tariq Aziz in 1982 in Dujail.
Iraqi high court Judge Mahmoud Saleh al-Hassan told the court that “After sufficient evidence against Tariq Aziz that he committed and participated in deliberate murder and crimes against humanity the court decided to issue the death sentence.” Aziz had previously been sentenced to 15 years imprisonment for his role in the forced displacement of Kurds, and 10 years imprisonment for crimes against humanity, by the same court.
For his part, Mohammed Abdul Sahib a spokesman for the Iraqi criminal court told the press that the three Iraqi officials were sentenced to death for eliminating religious parties.
Tariq Aziz’s eldest son, Ziad Aziz, told Asharq Al-Awsat via telephone from Amman, Jordan that “we were not expecting such a harsh sentence and we are surprised by this, especially as my father has no relation to the case of religious parties and their elimination, and the court knows this well, my father had nothing to do with religious affairs in Iraq at all.”
He added “this decision has come in retaliation against the Saddam Hussein regime and against my father, who the ruling party in Iraq, the Islamic Dawa party, wants revenge against, after this party failed to assassinate my father in 1980.” Ziad Aziz told Asharq Al-Awsat that “in fact, my father has been the victim of religious parties.”
Ziad Aziz said “the court which was supposed to be fair and impartial should have tried those who tried to assassinate my father in 1980 and the leader of the Islamic Dawa party, and that is Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, rather than sentencing an innocent man who is the victim of religious parties to death.”
Ziad Tariq Aziz also accused the criminal court of being “politicized and taking its orders from the Iraqi prime minister, as it did with regards to its decision to execute President Saddam Hussein and others”
He stressed that “the daily events and the Pentagon documents that have been disclosed by WikiLeaks prove beyond a doubt that the current Iraqi government and its prime minister have committed crimes against the people of Iraq, and they should be taken to court, rather than an innocent man who is known for his interest in culture and the media and who represented Iraq diplomatically in the international arena.”
He added “my father did not receive a real [legal] defence, but rather a lawyer appointed by the court; that’s why we do not expect any change in the special tribunal’s decision, the government will genuinely kill my father.”
For his part, Iraqi Deputy Minister for Justice Pusho Ibrahim Ali Daza Yei told Asharq Al-Awsat via telephone from Baghdad that “we are an executive [branch]; we have no relation to government decisions.” He also said that “the decisions of the special tribunal to issue a death sentence are not subject to presidential approval.”
Tariq Aziz is currently being held in Baghdad’s Khadimiyah prison where former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein was executed, as well as Saddam Hussein’s half-brother and former Iraqi intelligence chief Barzan Tikriti, former Iraqi chief judge Awad al-Bandar, former Iraqi vice president Taha Yassin Ramadan, and former Iraqi Defense Minister Ali Hassan al-Majid, who was better known in the West as Chemical Ali.
For his part, Tariq Aziz’s Amman-based lawyer, Badie Arif, criticized the Iraqi court’s decision, describing it as being “unfair” but “expected.” He said “Tariq Aziz personally told me that he would be executed and not freed.” Badie Arif also said that he had been unable to attend court to defend his client since March 2007 after he was “arrested on charges of contempt of court and was released by the Americans on 7 April, who returned me to Amman by airplane.”
Tariq Aziz, aged 74, is the former Iraqi Foreign Minister and former Deputy Prime Minister. He is a Chaldean Christian whose original name is reportedly Mikhail Yuhanna; he joined the Iraqi Baathist party in 1957. He was a member of Saddam Hussein’s Revolutionary Command Council, and was the public face of the Saddam Hussein regime. He was previously sentenced to 15 years imprisonment for “crimes against humanity” for his role in the execution of 42 merchants in 1992 in March 2009.