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Saddam Hussein's right-hand-man given death sentence

A high tribunal in Iraq passes the sentence for one of Hussein’s most trusted deputies for involvement in killing Shiites.

Tariq Aziz has 30 days to lodge an appeal, after which he will be hanged for his role in killing Shiite Muslims in 1991.
Tariq Aziz has 30 days to lodge an appeal, after which he will be hanged for his role in killing Shiite Muslims in 1991.
Image: Hadi Mizban/AP

ONE OF SADDAM HUSSEIN’S most prominent deputies – and one of his most trusted – is to be hanged after an Iraqi tribunal found him to have been involved in the “elimination” of Shi’ite Muslims in 1991.

Tariq Aziz – the former deputy prime minister and foreign minister, who served in many of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party administrations – was given the death sentence, along with two other top former officials and two more men, this morning by a High Tribunal investigating the deaths of Shia Muslims after they partook in a 1991 rebellion against Hussein’s leadership.

Aziz (74) was handed over to the Iraqi authorities earlier this year after he had initially turned himself in to American forces in 2003. In an attempt to portray himself as merely a fringe member of the administration, he had met with Pope John Paul II before turning himself in voluntarily.

Despite his protestations, however, he had featured in the infamous ‘Iraqi most wanted’ playing cards and was generally considered to be one of Hussein’s major confidants through his reign.

AP reports that Aziz – the only Christian member of the inner circle of the Ba’ath Party – sat alone for the sentencing, bowing his head and frequently grasping the handrail in front of him, breaking down at the severity of the punishment being handed down.

The sentence was the first of many Aziz is expected to face, according to the chief judge of Iraq’s high criminal court, who said Aziz still faced many charges, a number of which could also lead to death sentences.

Al-Jazeera reports that Aziz has 30 days in which to appeal his sentence; if he opts to do so, the court has 30 days to hear it. At the end of his 30-day appeals window, or 30 days after any appeal is dismissed, he will be hanged – assuming that, as is legally required, the Iraqi president will sign off on the execution order.

Aziz was last year given a 15-year sentence for the execution of 42 businessmen in July 1992. His Jordanian lawyers have described the latest sentence as “unreasonable, irrational and wrong”.

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Gavan Reilly

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