Last Updated: Thu Oct 28, 2010 18:04 pm (KSA) 15:04 pm (GMT)

Iraq court sentences Aziz, 2 top advisers, to death

Tariq Aziz, former Iraqi foreign minister and deputy prime minister (File)
Tariq Aziz, former Iraqi foreign minister and deputy prime minister (File)

Iraq's supreme criminal court on Tuesday sentenced former deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz as well as two other top advisers of late president Saddam Hussein to death.

"The supreme criminal court issued an execution order against Tariq 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.

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

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.

WikiLeaks

 It proves the credibility of the information published by Wikileaks... This verdict is a disgrace 
Ziad Tariq Aziz

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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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 recognizable 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.

The Vatican

The Vatican on Tuesday urged clemency for Iraq's former deputy premier Tariq Aziz, after a court sentenced him to death for murder and crimes against humanity.

Iraq's supreme criminal court earlier Tuesday found the long-time international face of the Saddam Hussein regime, who is a Christian, guilty of "deliberate murder and crimes against humanity."

"The Catholic Church position on the death penalty is known," Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said in a statement. "We really want the sentence against Tareq Aziz not to be carried out."

Aziz's life should be spared because this would "foster reconciliation and the reconstruction of peace and justice in Iraq after great suffering".

The spokesman added that any humanitarian intervention would be undertaken through diplomatic channels.

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