Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Former Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz Sentenced to Death by U.S.-Installed Iraq Regime

Tariq Aziz sentenced to death

Former deputy PM of Saddam Hussein issued with execution order by high tribunal for persecution of Islamic parties

26 Oct 2010 17:13 GMT

An Iraqi court handed down the death sentence against Aziz for his
role in eliminating Islamic parties

Iraq's high tribunal has passed a death sentence on Tariq Aziz, one of deposed leader Saddam Hussein's most prominent deputies.

The death sentence, announced on Tuesday, was the first to be handed to Aziz, a former foreign minister and deputy prime minister, who was often seen as the face of Saddam's government in foreign capitals and at the UN.

Al Jazeera's Rawya Rageh, reporting from Baghdad, said that the
charges against Aziz are related to a crackdown on an uprising led by
Shia Muslim parties in the early 1990s.

"Among them was the party of Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime
minister, who at that time carried out an attempted coup against
Saddam Hussein," she said.

Aziz, 74, was at the centre of explaining Iraq's policy in the months
leading up to the first Gulf War after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, and
in the years after as Iraq faced sanctions and arms inspections.

In 2003, he met with Pope John-Paul II in an unsuccessful effort to
avert the threat of military action by the US and its allies.

The Iraqi high tribunal was set up in 2003 to try former members of
Saddam's rule.

"Aziz's lawyers have 30 days to present an appeal. The court then has
another 30 days to look into that appeal," Rageh said.

"Assuming his appeal is turned down there are 30 more days before the death penalty would be carried out."

'Irrational and wrong'

Badee' Aref, Aziz's lawyer, told Al Jazeera that from a legal
perspective the sentence was "unreasonable, irrational and wrong".

"I don't recognise this court because it sentenced Saddam Hussein to death and all the decisions it took are void because they are based on murder and assassination," Aref said.

"It is an invalid sentence from both legal and ethical perspectives. I
don't recognise this court because it sentenced Saddam Hussein to
death and all the decisions it took are void because they are based on murder and assassination."

Aref said that the timing of the sentence was aimed at diverting
attention away from crimes that happened in Iraq that were outlined by WikiLeaks on Saturday.

Al Jazeera has reported extensively on findings from the thousands of classified documents released by the organisation that implicate many senior Iraqi politicians.

"Before the court passes any death sentences it informs us a month
before the date of the sentence. They didn't this time," Aref said.

"I was told by my sources inside the court that three of the judges do
not approve of the sentence and were forced to sign it."

After US forces entered Baghdad in April 2003, Aziz was number 43 on the list of the 55 most wanted Iraqi senior officials.

He turned himself in to US forces on April 25 and has been in their
custody ever since.

Aziz was brought to trial on April 29, 2008 and accused of signing an
order for the execution of 42 merchants who allegedly manipulated food prices in July 1992 at the height of the country's economic downturn under UN sanctions. He has denied the charges.

Prosecutors had also hoped that Aziz, who is a Christian, would
testify against Saddam, but the former foreign minister refused to
condemn his one-time boss and continued to refer to him as "the

Poor health

Aziz's family say his health has deteriorated considerably since he
suffered a stroke prior to the US invasion. Senior members of Iraq's
Assyrian Church have called on US forces to release him.

His lawyer confirmed that he was in poor health and in deep shock and astonishment.

"The sentence was a big blow to him and he is still under the effect
of the shock, a matter that could end his life before he is executed."

Amnesty International called on the Iraqi authorities not to execute
Aziz and two other former officials sentenced to death by a Baghdad

Sadoun Shakir, a former Interior Minister under Saddam Hussain, and Abed Hamoud, the executed former dictator’s private secretary, were convicted by the Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal (SICT).

Saddam Hussain's rule was synonymous with executions, torture and other gross human rights violations, and it is right that those who
committed crimes are brought to justice," Malcolm Smart, a director of Amnesty International, said.

"However, it is vital that the death penalty, which is the ultimate
denial of human rights, should never be used, whatever the gravity of
the crime."

On March 11, 2009 an Iraqi court found him guilty of the July 1992
executions and handed him a 15-year sentence.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

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