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Tareq Aziz sentenced to 15 years in jail

Former Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz, the public face of Saddam Hussein's regime, has been sentenced to 15 years jail by Iraq's High Court for crimes against humanity.

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AFP- Iraq's top court on Wednesday sentenced former deputy premier Tareq Aziz and Saddam Hussein's hatchet-man "Chemical Ali" Hassan al-Majid to 15 years in jail for crimes against humanity.

Aziz and Majid were among eight people on trial at the Iraqi High Tribunal over the 1992 murders of 42 Baghdad traders accused of racketeering while Iraq was under punishing UN sanctions imposed after the invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

The two key figures in Saddam's ousted regime had risked the death penalty.

It is the first conviction against Aziz, 73, who was Saddam's spokesman to the outside world for two decades but turned himself in after the regime was overthrown by US-led invading forces in March 2003.

Wednesday's decision followed a verdict delivered by the Baghdad court on March 2 that condemned Majid, a half brother of Saddam, to his third death sentence over the murder of Shiite Muslims 10 years ago.

However, the court had acquitted Aziz on the same charges of crimes against humanity.

Majid himself was first sentenced to death in June 2007 for genocide after ordering the deaths of tens of thousands of Kurds during the 1988 Anfal campaign, when Iraqi forces strafed villages with poison gas, the source of his grim nickname.

He was also given a second death penalty for war crimes and crimes against humanity over a bloody crackdown on Shiites during their ill-fated uprising after the 1991 Gulf War.

He and Aziz, whose acquittal on March 2 was the first verdict from four trials in which he is a defendant, are also accused of displacing and killing about 2,000 clansmen of Kurdish regional president Massud Barzani.

The two men, along with former interior minister Watban Ibrahim Hassan and Saddam's private secretary Abed Hamud, are among 16 former officials also on trial for a brutal 1980s campaign against Shiite Kurds.

They are accused of using members of the Fayli Kurdish community as guinea pigs for chemicals weapons testing and as human shields during Iraq's war with neighbouring Iran from 1980 to 1988.

Aziz, who was the only Christian in Saddam's inner circle, has said he was proud to have been a member of the now disbanded Baath party.

He has also stated that could not be held responsible for the charges against him in the deaths of the Baghdad merchants.

He turned himself in to US forces in April 2003 after Saddam's regime was overthrown, but his son last year complained that he was being held in very bad conditions in custody and was suffering from a variety of ailments.

Chemical Ali, a former defence minister and cousin of the executed dictator, has shown no remorse for his part in the crimes for which he stands accused.
 

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