- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tariq Aziz, Saddam Hussein’s former right-hand man and once the international face of the Iraqi regime, was sentenced to death by the Iraqi supreme criminal court on Tuesday.

Aziz, deputy prime minister and foreign minister in Saddam’s regime, had been charged with “deliberate murder and crimes against humanity.”

Two other defendants in the case, former Interior Minister Sadoun Shakir and Saddam’s private secretary, Abid Hamoud, also received death sentences.

All three were sentenced for their roles in the persecutions and murders of members of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Shiite-dominated Dawa party, including its founder, Mohammed Baqr al-Sadr. The Dawa party was the main opposition group during Saddam’s reign.

Aziz, 74, is reported to be seriously ill.

His attorney, Badee Izzat Aref, told the Associated Press that the verdict was “politically motivated.”

However, State Department spokesman Michael Tran said all sentencing rulings, including Aziz’s death sentence, were “Iraqi decisions reached in accordance with Iraqi law.”

Tariq Aziz has been convicted of numerous crimes against the people of Iraq,” Mr. Tran said.

Aziz was also sentenced to 15 years in prison for “committing torture” and 10 years for “participating in torture.” The court ordered that all his known wealth be confiscated.

In 2009, Aziz was handed a 15-year prison sentence for the executions of 42 Baghdad merchants in 1992. He also was given a seven-year sentence for his role in expelling Kurds from Iraq’s north.

He pleaded not guilty in both cases.

In a phone interview from Dubai, Samer Muscati, a researcher with Human Rights Watch’s Middle East division, said the process under which Aziz was tried is “flawed because of serious administrative, procedural and substantive legal defects.”

“It is always a concern when someone is sentenced to death under the Iraqi penal system, considering the due process issues that exist,” Mr. Muscati said.

Some expressed surprise at the death sentence for Aziz.

While serving as U.S. ambassador to Iraq between 1984 and 1988, David Newton met numerous times with Aziz.

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