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Top Saddam aide sentenced to death

by Jorge Hernandez on October 26, 2010

Tariq Aziz, a close adviser to Saddam Hussein and one of the dictator's most public defenders, has been sentenced to death by the Iraqi Supreme Court following charges of numerous crimes against humanity.

Aziz, who previously served as a foreign minister and deputy prime minister with Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime, was charged with the prosecution of Shiite religious parties. He was also linked to the justification of invading Kuwait, efforts to obscure Saddam's unconventional weapon program, the mass killings of Kurds and Shiites and the use of chemical weapons at the Kurdish town of Halabja, according to The New York Times.

The courts have yet to set an execution date. Aziz has 30 days to appeal the case but if his sentence holds, Iraqi law states he must be hung within 30 days of the final decision, reports The Washington Post.

In an interview with The Guardian earlier this year, Aziz claimed he was innocent. "All decisions were taken by president Saddam Hussein. I held a political position, I did not participate in any of the crimes that were raised against me personally. Out of hundreds of complaints, nobody has mentioned me in person."

In March 2009 Aziz was sentenced to 15 years in prison for deaths of 42 merchants who had been accused of manipulating food prices. He was acquitted on charges of ordering a 1999 crackdown against Shiite protesters after a revered Shiite cleric was assassinated, according to CNN.

Aziz is currently serving a seven-year prison sentence for the forced displacement of Iraqi Kurds in northern Iraq.

Chief judge Mohammed Abdul Sahab told The Guardian that Aziz may face further death sentences in the coming weeks.

Aziz's lawyer has claimed the sentence is a government ploy aimed at distracting attention from Iraq's political stalemate. He said Aziz was unconcerned by the death sentence, according to The New York Times. 

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