April 24, 2008 / 9:04 AM / 11 years ago

Former Iraqi deputy PM Tariq Aziz to face trial

BAGHDAD, April 24 (Reuters) - Former Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, the public face of Saddam Hussein’s regime, will face trial next week over the execution of dozens of merchants in 1992, a prosecutor said on Thursday.

Jaffar al-Moussawi, a prosecutor with the Iraqi High Tribunal, said Aziz and several other former members of Saddam’s regime would appear in court on Tuesday over the case.

Aziz, who also served as foreign minister under Saddam, has appeared as a witness in earlier trials of ex-regime members, but this will be the first time he has faced charges himself.

"Tariq Aziz will be presented for trial at the special tribunal over the execution of around 40 merchants in 1992," Moussawi told Reuters.

Asked what the specific charges would be, Moussawi said: "It’s believed he was involved in the case."

Another defendant will be Watban Ibrahim al-Hassan, a half-brother to Saddam. Moussawi said he was interior minister when the executions took place.

The merchants were accused of increasing prices of essential goods against state policy at a time when Iraq was suffering under U.N. sanctions imposed for its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

Aziz surrendered to U.S. forces in April 2003. He has long complained of ill health.

The Iraqi High Tribunal was set up to try former members of Saddam’s regime. Saddam was executed in December 2006 after being convicted of crimes against humanity for the killing of 148 Shi’ite men and boys after a 1982 assassination attempt. (Reporting by Waleed Ibrahim; Writing by Dean Yates; Editing by Giles Elgood

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