Tariq Aziz, the urbane face of Saddam’s regime, is sentenced to death

IRAQ’S former deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz – the international face of the Saddam Hussein regime – was sentenced to death last night.

The death sentence followed his conviction for taking part in a Saddam-led campaign that hunted and executed members of the Shi’ite Dawa Party, of which current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is a member.

The urbane Aziz, 74, a Christian who became the international face of Saddam’s regime, can appeal against the sentence.

He predicted in a recent interview that he would die in prison.

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

Aziz’s son, Ziad, said his father was the victim, not the criminal, since Dawa Party members tried to assassinate him in 1980.

Aziz surrendered to US forces about a month after the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

A fluent English speaker and the only Christian in the senior leadership of Saddam’s mainly Sunni regime, Aziz became internationally known as the dictator’s defender and a fierce critic of the US-led invasion.

Iraq’s supreme criminal court yesterday ordered death sentences against two other top Saddam officials, former interior minister Saadoun Shaker and Abid Hamoud, who was the Iraqi dictator’s secretary.

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