Saddam crony Tariq Aziz sentenced to hang in Iraq

Another chapter closed in the violent legacy of Saddam Hussein:

The international face of Saddam Hussein’s regime, Tariq Aziz, was sentenced to death by hanging Tuesday for persecuting Shiites just over three months after the Americans transferred him to Iraqi government custody.

Iraqi High Tribunal spokesman Mohammed Abdul-Sahib did not say when the 74-year-old former foreign minister would go to the gallows. Aziz has 30 days to launch an appeal.

… Aziz was on trial in a long-running case in which he is accused of being part of a campaign of persecuting, killing and torturing members of the Shiite opposition and the banned religious parties, like the Shiite Dawa Party, of which Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is a member.

He was sentenced to 15 years in prison for taking part in forced displacement and 10 years for committing torture. Judge Mahmoud Saleh al-Hassan declared the harshest punishment — death by hanging — for participating in deliberate killings but gave no details.

Aziz was one of five members of the deposed regime who were convicted Tuesday of similar crimes. A sixth defendant, Saddam’s half brother, Watban Ibrahim al-Hassan, was found innocent because of lack of evidence, the judge said. Al-Hassan served as interior minister.

Aziz has already been convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison for his role in the 1992 execution of 42 merchants found guilty of profiteering. He also received a seven-year prison sentence for a case involving the forced displacement of Kurds in northern Iraq.

If the Appeals’ Court upholds the death sentence, the law says Aziz should be hung within 30 days of the final decision. The Iraqi president also needs to sign off on an execution order.

On a related note, the recent WikiLeaks dump of classified Iraq and Afghanistan military documents confirmed that US personnel continued to find chemical weapons, reagents, and laboratory equipment for years in Iraq, much of it left over from Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapons program. There is also speculation that some of the chemical weapons confiscated from al-Qaida operatives were provided by Iran.

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