Saddam Hussein's longtime foreign minister Tariq Aziz was sentenced to death by hanging Tuesday for persecuting members of Shiite religious parties under the former regime.
Iraq's high criminal court spokesman Mohammed Abdul-Sahib did not say when Aziz, 74, would be put to death. The death sentence followed his conviction of taking part in a Saddam-led campaign that hunted and executed members of the Shiite Dawa Party, of which current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is a member.
Aziz, a Christian who became the international face of Saddam's regime, can appeal the sentence. He has already been convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison for his role in the 1992 execution of 42 merchants 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 that the death sentence was "unfair" and "illogical", because his father was the victim, not the criminal, since Dawa Party members tried to assassinate him in 1980. "This is an illogical and an unfair sentence that is serving political goals of the Iraqi government.Tariq Aziz himself was the victim of the religious parties that tried to kill him in 1980, but now he is turned to a criminal," AP quoted Aziz' son as saying.
However, calling Tareq Aziz 'a victim' sounds somewhat ridiculous to my ears. Tareq Aziz, whose real name is Mikhail Yuhanna, was long one of the people who belonged to the inner crowd of Saddam Hussein. Originally editor in chef of the party newspaper, Saddam made him his foreign minister and later his vice-prime minister. As such he must not only have been aware of, but in fact have been partaking in most decisions and have been an accomplice to the acts of genocide against the Kurds in the eighties, and against the Shiites in 1991, apart from the war crimes against Iran en all other atrocities committed by this exceptionally cruel regime. In 1980 he escaped a bomb attack by members of al-Da'awa, after wich an unknown number of people (among them prisoners) were executed by way of reprisal. I met Aziz at a reception in Baghdad in October of that year and he was joking about the whole event which left him as good as unhurt. It may be true that Aziz personnally did not kill people and that the gun which he carried when I met him, was only ceremonial and part of the Ba'ath uniform that people of his rank used to wear. However, as a member of the small bunch of decision makers he was undoubtely aware of all that happened. As far as I know, it was Aziz who first hinted that Iraq was going to use poison gas against the Iranian troops (in een interview with Le Monde, in the early eighties he made a remark that they were goingt to be killed in the way one kills insects). So his son's reaction to the conviction is typical of the hypocrisy of the Ba'athists who always used to argue that they had to be tough because the were dealing with separatists (Kurds), religious fanatics (Shiites), criminals (people critical of their regime) and - last but not least - bloodthirsty Iranians, while forgetting that it was they who had started the war in the first place.