Aziz death sentence a 'farce,' lawyer says

ROME, Oct. 26 (UPI) -- A death sentence Tuesday for former Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz is a malicious act by the courts, one of his lawyers said.

An Iraqi supreme court issued a ruling Tuesday to execute three members of the former Baathist regime for "elimination of religious parties," the Voices of Iraq news agency reports.


Aziz along with two other former Baath officials were sentenced for their role in a crackdown on Shiites in the 1980s in the wake of the April 1980 slaying of Mohammed Baqr al-Sadr, the founder of the Shiite Dawa Party that includes incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Giovanni Di Stefano, a lawyer representing the interests of the former leader, said Tuesday's ruling was a shame.

"The so-called Iraqi Supreme Court have sentenced Aziz to death on allegations that are frankly nothing short of malicious, capricious and non-existent," he said in a statement from his offices in Rome. "The trial was nothing short of a farce."

Di Stefano said he filed an emergency appeal with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to weigh in on the case.

Aziz surrendered to U.S. forces in April 2003 and is serving a lengthy prison term for his role in the assassination of several Iraqi merchants exploiting the sanctions regime. He suffered a stroke in his prison cell in January.


It wasn't clear when Baghdad intended to carry out the death sentence. Aziz was one of 55 members of the regime of Saddam Hussein handed over to Iraqi custody by U.S. military officials. The transfer was part of an effort to transfer authority to the Iraqis as U.S. forces wrapped up their mission there this summer.

Aziz told London's Guardian newspaper at the time that U.S. forces were "leaving Iraq to the wolves" by adhering to a timeline to leave the country.

He was the only Christian member of the former regime.

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