Aziz gets 15 years for role in execution of profiteering Iraqi merchants

1224242738912_1.jpgMICHAEL JANSENIRAQ’S FORMER deputy prime minister Tareq Aziz was imprisoned for 15 years yesterday for his role in the summary execution of 42 merchants convicted of profiteering during the punitive UN sanctions regime.

Former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein’s first cousin, Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as “Chemical Ali” for his use of chemical weapons against the Kurds, was also jailed for 15 years.

Two of Saddam’s half-brothers, former interior minister Watban Ibrahim and security chief Sabawi Ibrahim, were sentenced to death while the ousted president’s secretary, Abed Hamud, was given life in prison.

High Tribunal judge Rauf Abdelrahman, a Kurd who sent Saddam to the gallows in 2006, said the brothers were guilty of “premeditated murder” and “crimes against humanity”.

Mr Aziz’s lawyer, Badia Aref, called the sentence “extremely harsh” as his client had not been in Iraq at the time of the killings and had had no choice but to sign the death warrants. Mr Aref called the sentence “politically motivated” and vowed to appeal within 30 days.

Mr Aziz was acquitted and Mr al-Majid was sentenced to death at the 2006 trial dealing with the crackdown on the Shia town of Dujail where Saddam Hussein escaped assassination in 1982.

Last week Mr Aziz was again acquitted in a trial over the deaths of Shias protesting at the 1999 assassination of Shia Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Sadeq al-Sadr, the father of anti-occupation cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, while Mr al-Majid received another death sentence.

Mr Aziz, a frail 73 year old suffering from lung disease, is unlikely to survive his sentence.

A Chaldean Christian, he was for 20 years the urbane, human face of the Baath party regime. Since Saddam Hussein rarely went abroad, Mr Aziz often represented Iraq at the highest level.

He studied English literature at Baghdad University, joined the Baath party as a young man and served as information minister, foreign minister and deputy prime minister.

In 1980 he survived an attack by Shia militants. This prompted Baghdad to wage a disastrous eight-year war with Iran, which backed Shia insurgents belonging to the Dawa movement which now rules Iraq.

Mr Aziz tried and failed to avert the 1991 and 2003 US wars on Iraq, surrendered to the US military soon after the fall of Baghdad in April 2003 and has been held since then in solitary confinement at the US prison at the city’s international airport.