Hussein insider sentenced
Aziz gets 15 years in '92 execution of Iraqi merchants
BAGHDAD - For years he was the urbane, cigar-smoking face of Saddam Hussein's regime, who argued his boss's case in the international corridors of power.
Tariq Aziz, 72, now faces 15 years in prison for crimes against humanity in the 1992 execution of Iraqi merchants - his first conviction for his role in the ousted regime. The verdict came just over a week after Aziz was acquitted in a separate case.
The silver-haired former foreign minister, deputy prime minister, and Hussein insider blinked frequently yesterday as the judge read the verdict - guilty on four counts of crimes against humanity including complicity in murder and torture.
Aziz, wearing a blue jacket, black shirt and his trademark thick, black-rimmed glasses, stood silently. When the judge finished, Aziz quietly asked whether he could sit down. The request was granted.
He sat with his eyes shut as other defendants rose to hear their sentences.
Two of Saddam's half brothers, former interior minister Watban Ibrahim al-Hassan and director of public security Sabawi Ibrahim, were sentenced to death in the merchants' case.
Hussein's cousin Ali Hassan "Chemical Ali" al-Majid, who already faces three death sentences from previous cases, also received a 15-year prison sentence.
Three other defendants were sentenced to life in prison, 15 years, and six years respectively. Former
The defendants were accused of involvement in the July 1992 roundup of 42 merchants accused by Hussein of being behind a sharp increase in food prices while the country was suffering hardships under sanctions.
The merchants were arrested over two days in Baghdad's wholesale markets and charged with manipulating food supplies to drive up prices. They were executed hours later after a quick trial.
Crime against humanity is a charge under international law that refers to offenses so odious that they constitute an attack on human dignity. The charge is not isolated to specific events but is part of a pattern of atrocities by a state.
Prosecutors had argued that Aziz was complicit because he was a member of the ruling Revolutionary Command Council that rubber-stamped Hussein's decisions.
After hearing his death sentence, Ibrahim shouted "Long live Iraq" and "Down with the occupier."
"I am proud to be one of Iraq's martyrs and to join the martyr Saddam Hussein," he cried.
Defense attorney Badee Izzat Aref said Aziz would appeal and that Aziz was traveling in Europe when the executions occurred.