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World News

Saddam aide Aziz convicted in Kurdish case - court

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - An Iraqi court convicted former Saddam Hussein deputy Tareq Aziz in a case involving atrocities against Iraq’s Kurdish minority on Monday but acquitted two of Saddam’s half brothers, a court spokesman said.

A video grab shows former Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz listening to the court verdict while in the dock in Baghdad March 11, 2009. Aziz was sentenced to death by Iraq's high tribunal in a separate case last month for crimes against humanity over the persecution of Islamic parties in Iraq. REUTERS/Iraqiya TV via Reuters TV/Files

Aziz, who once was the international face of Saddam’s government, was sentenced to death by Iraq’s high tribunal in a separate case last month for crimes against humanity over the persecution of Islamic parties in Iraq.

“The court issued a sentence against five defendants including Tareq Aziz, who was convicted for atrocities committed against Shi’ite Kurds, and sentenced him to 10 years in prison,” said Judge Mohammed Abdul-Sahib, a spokesman for the court.

Abdul-Sahib said the court dismissed charges against Sabaawi Ibrahim al-Hassan and Watban Ibrahim al-Hassan, Saddam’s half brothers, in the same case.

“The court found that the available evidence could not convict the defendants of the charges against them in the case of the killing and displacement of Shiite Kurds,” he said.

The two were sentenced to death in 2009 for their roles in the killings of dozens of traders who were executed after being accused of hiking prices of goods in violation of state price controls.

Saddam’s regime carried out campaigns that killed and forcibly displaced thousands of ethnic Kurds in northern Iraq, including poison gas attacks on Kurdish villages.

DEATH SENTENCE

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani told a French television channel this month he would not sign an execution order for Aziz, who rose to prominence at the time of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and the 1991 Gulf War, when he was foreign minister.

It is not clear whether Talabani’s opposition to signing a death sentence would prevent it from being carried out. Iraq executed Saddam in 2006 despite Talabani’s apparent refusal to sign.

The Vatican and Russia have both asked Iraq not to carry out the sentence on humanitarian grounds, citing Aziz’s age and poor health.

Badie Arif, Aziz’s lawyer, said he believes the Iraqi government will execute his client.

“The Iraqi government will not care about local or international public opinion. It will challenge the international community and carry out Tariq Aziz’s death sentence,” he said.

Many high-ranking officials in Saddam’s government have been sentenced to death since the Sunni dictator was deposed by a U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Several have been executed.

Saddam’s regime killed tens of thousands of people in brutal campaigns against minority Kurds and majority Shi’ites.

Writing by Jim Loney; Editing by Jason Benham, Ron Askew

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