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Iraq Court Sentences Tareq Aziz to Death - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Iraq's former deputy prime minister Tareq Aziz appears before an Iraqi tribunal in Baghdad in this July 1, 2004 file photo.(Reuters)

Iraq’s former deputy prime minister Tareq Aziz appears before an Iraqi tribunal in Baghdad in this July 1, 2004 file photo.(Reuters)

BAGHDAD, (AFP) – Iraq’s supreme criminal court sentenced former deputy prime minister Tareq Aziz to death on Tuesday, the first death sentence handed down against the longtime international face of the Saddam Hussein regime.

“The supreme criminal court issued an execution order against Tareq Aziz for his role in eliminating religious parties,” state television reported.

It said that the court also ordered death sentences against two other top Saddam lieutenants, former interior minister Saadoun Shaker and Abid Hamoud, the executed dictator’s secretary.

All three were sentenced for their role in a crackdown on Shiites, which followed a 1982 assassination attempt against Saddam in Dujail, a mainly Shiite town north of Baghdad, the court’s spokesman Mohammed Abdul Saheb said.

“The order was for the crackdown on religious parties which took place in the 1980s,” Abdul Saheb told AFP.

There was another bigger crackdown against Iraq’s Shiite majority community following a 1991 uprising against Saddam.

By law, the death sentences have to be confirmed by the presidential council before being carried out.

Aziz’s Jordan-based son Ziad told AFP that the death sentence against his father proved the revelations made about the Iraqi state by the whistleblower website WikiLeaks.

“The decision was an act of revenge against anybody and anything related to the past,” he said.

“It proves the credibility of the information published by Wikileaks… This verdict is a disgrace,” said Ziad, who has lived in Amman with his family since 2003.

WikiLeaks published 391,832 classified US military documents on Iraq on Friday which its founder Julian Assange said showed the war was “a bloodbath on every corner” with numerous reports of abuse of detainees by Iraqi forces, often supported by medical evidence.

Of the three former top officials sentenced to death on Tuesday, the urbane Aziz was by far the most prominent figure.

In 2009, Aziz was jailed for 15 years for the 1992 execution of 42 Baghdad wholesalers and separately given a seven-year term for his role in expelling Kurds from Iraq’s north. He pleaded not guilty on all counts.

Among Saddam’s few surviving top cohorts, Aziz turned himself in to US forces in April 2003, days after the fall of Baghdad. He was named foreign minister in 1983 and then deputy prime minister in 1991.

Aziz exploited his mastery of English to put a gloss on Saddam Hussein’s murderous regime for two decades.

As Saddam’s principal spokesman, the bespectacled Aziz — the only Christian in the dictator’s inner circle — was a recognisable figure internationally whose rise was attributed to unswerving loyalty to his master.

Aziz’s family has repeatedly called for his release from custody, saying the 74-year-old was in poor health suffering from heart and respiratory problems, high blood pressure and diabetes.

In September, his son Ziad said the Iraqi government wanted Aziz to die in Baghdad’s Kadhmiyah jail and had shown no compassion for his declining health.

In this Sunday, Sept. 5, 2010 photo, Tariq Aziz, former Iraqi foreign minister and deputy prime minister speaks to the Associated Press in Baghdad, Iraq. (AP)

In this Sunday, Sept. 5, 2010 photo, Tariq Aziz, former Iraqi foreign minister and deputy prime minister speaks to the Associated Press in Baghdad, Iraq. (AP)

Activists of the Rome-based group against the death penalty Hands Off Cain demonstrate in support of a moratorium against the death penalty and demand a fair trial for Tareq Aziz in Rome, Thursday, July 24, 2008. (AP)

Activists of the Rome-based group against the death penalty Hands Off Cain demonstrate in support of a moratorium against the death penalty and demand a fair trial for Tareq Aziz in Rome, Thursday, July 24, 2008. (AP)

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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