Former top Iraqi leader sentenced to death

BAGHDAD, Oct. 26 (UPI) -- An Iraqi court sentenced Tariq Aziz, a former key aide to Saddam Hussein, to death Tuesday for Aziz's role in crimes against rival political parties.

The ruling was the latest in a string of cases against Aziz, one of the more familiar faces internationally in Saddam's regime, representing Iraq in the diplomatic arena.


It was not known when Aziz's execution would be carried out, The New York Times reported.

Badea Araf Azzit, one of Aziz's attorneys, said the death sentence was a ploy meant to draw attention away from the country's political woes and the U.S. Pentagon documents posted online that described prisoner abuse by Iraqi guards and security forces, the Times said.

"It is a political judgment," Azzit said.

Aziz's lawyers have said their client's responsibility was Iraq's diplomatic and political relations only, and had nothing to do with the executions and purges carried during Saddam's reign.

Saddam was hanged in 2006.

Aziz's lawyers said their client was in poor health. In January, the U.S. military said Aziz suffered a blood clot in the brain and treated at a U.S. military hospital, the Times reported.


Aziz, who surrendered to U.S. troops in his hometown of Mosul, was sentenced in March 2009 to 15 years in prison for crimes against humanity, but earlier was acquitted on charges of ordering a 1999 crackdown against Shiite protesters after a Shiite cleric was assassinated. He is serving a seven-year prison term for a case involving the expulsion of Kurds in northern Iraq.

Abed Hameed Mahmoud and Sadoon Shaker, also top Baathists during Saddam's rule, were sentenced to death, Iraq's State TV said.

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