Ex-Saddam aide gets 7 years in Kurdish case

Tariq Aziz convicted of helping to plan the forced displacement of Kurds from northeastern Iraq.

tariq aziz 298.88 (photo credit: Associated Press)
tariq aziz 298.88
(photo credit: Associated Press)
One of Saddam Hussein's best-known lieutenants was sentenced to seven years in jail Sunday for helping to plan the forced displacement of Kurds from northeastern Iraq. It was the second conviction against Tariq Aziz, the silver-haired former foreign minister and deputy prime minister who argued his boss' case in the halls of the United Nations and other international forums. Dozens of villages were destroyed, thousands of people displaced and children separated from their families as part of Saddam's campaign against the Kurds in the late 1980s. "Because you committed the crime of forced displacement against the Kurdish people, the court has decided to sentence you to seven years in prison," Judge Mahmoud Salih said. Aziz did not respond as the sentence was handed down. The defense has claimed Aziz, a fluent English-speaker and the only Christian in Saddam's mostly Sunni Muslim inner circle, spent most of his time on diplomatic missions outside Iraq and was not involved in atrocities. "The verdict against Mr. Aziz was a political decision," defense attorney Badee Izzat Aref said. Saddam's cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as "Chemical Ali," former Interior Minister Sadoon Shakir and former regional official Mizban Khudr Hadi also received seven-year sentences. Four other former regime members received six years in jail while five were acquitted. Sunday's ruling came more than four months after Aziz was sentenced to 15 years in prison for crimes against humanity in the 1992 execution of Iraqi merchants. In that case, the defendants were accused of involvement in the July 1992 roundup and execution of 42 merchants accused by Saddam of manipulating food supplies to drive up food prices when the country was suffering hardships under sanctions. Aziz was cleared of any role in a separate case over the brutal crackdown on Shiite protesters that followed the 1999 assassination of a revered cleric, Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Sadeq al-Sadr - the father of anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. That trial saw Saddam's cousin, al-Majid, receive a third death sentence. Saddam was hanged in December 2006 for his role in the killing of Shiite Muslims in the town of Dujail after an assassination attempt in 1982.