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26 Oct, 2010 13:03

Tariq Aziz, Saddam Hussein’s top confidant, sentenced to death

Tariq Aziz has been sentenced to death by hanging Tuesday for religious persecution under Iraq’s deposed Ba’athist regime.

Aziz, a Chaldean Christian who was identified as the eight of spades in the US military’s deck of wanted Ba’athist members, is set to die by hanging. He is charged with participating in a Saddam-orchestrated campaign to eliminate members of the Shiite Dawa Party, of which current Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is a member.

Mohammed Abdul Sahib, spokesman for Iraq's high criminal court, did not say when the former top-ranking would be put to death.

Aziz is already serving a 15-year sentence for his role in the 1992 execution of 42 merchants found guilty of profiteering.

The head of the Duma Committee for International Affairs, Konstantin Kosachev, says that the verdict was deliberately timed to distract attention from the row over the latest WikiLeaks revelations.

In recent news, WikiLeaks, the whistleblowing website, released thousands of files on the Iraq war, some of which suggest that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki organized "death squads" and other abuses by Iraqi security forces.

Carol Turner from the Stop the War coalition says there’s something very political behind this situation, as the victors in a conflict go unpunished and those who are defeated – Saddam Hussein, Tariq Aziz and so on – are the ones against whom the retributions are brought.

“I think if you make the comparison with WikiLeaks, what Tariq Aziz is being sentenced to, compared to what other people are getting away with, is certainly an interesting contrast,” Turner said. “What WikiLeaks showed is the scale of torture was huge, it was widespread – and even more, the US and Britain were absolutely complicit. This is not a matter of a few soldiers turning a blind eye. This is a case of the American military issuing central commands to not act on torture and breaches of human rights and so on. And if there were any justice in the world, not only would the torturers be punished, but so would the American and British authorities who went along with it.”

For the RT report on the WikiLeaks release, click here.

British MP Jeremy Corbyn said there are some enormous issues that need to be addressed in Iraq, and the death penalty handed down against Tariq Aziz is an attempt to divert attention from trying to whitewash over and ignore the very serious allegations concerning torture that are very embarrassing both to the US and the Iraqi government. But this attempt, he warned, won’t succeed.

“Tariq Aziz was part of a regime, it was very brutal, it did commit the most appalling atrocities and I was one of a very small number of MPs in the 1990s that opposed arms deals with Iraq and raised the issue of human rights in Iraq,” Corbyn said. “I do not see the value in executing Tariq Aziz any more than executing anybody else. It will not bring the dead back. It will further brutalize what is already a very brutal situation and the death penalty does not work.”

“I think what we need is a real investigation into the behavior of the occupying forces and the Iraqi army and its forces ever since the invasion in 2003,” he added.

Who is Tariq Aziz?

Aziz, 74, was a political ally of Saddam Hussein since the 1950s when both men worked for the Ba’ath Arab Socialist Party, which was banned at that time. He quickly rose through the political ranks, becoming Deputy Prime Minister, a position he would hold from 1979 until the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Despite his close personal relationship with former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein (who was executed by hanging on December 30, 2006), Aziz only ranked as the 25th most-wanted Ba’ath party member (To view the entire set of playing cards, click here).

In October 2002, when Washington was beating the drum for war against Iraq, Aziz told the New York Times that the real objective for attacking Iraq was “oil and Israel.”

Aziz cited North Korea’s revealed nuclear weapon program as proof that the United States was not concerned about Baghdad’s ability or desire to launch an attack against the West.

''North Korea has admitted to having a secret nuclear program,” Aziz said. “The United States is not asking that North Korea be inspected in the way they are asking for Iraq to be inspected. Why? Because there are two things absent in North Korea: oil and Israel. The reason for this warmongering policy toward Iraq is oil and Israel.''

The former Ba’athist official, who was known as the face of the Hussein regime, then said that the United States and Britain, Washington’s top ally in the war, were not interested in “regime change” in Iraq, but rather “region change.”

''The inspectors will find that all the talk of Iraq stockpiling weapons of mass destruction is simply a lie, and put by Bush and Blair as a pretext for staging a war,'' Aziz said. "This is not…regime change, but region change, and nobody can stop it."

The war in Iraq, which commenced on March 20, 2003, did not turn up a single weapon of mass destruction.

Robert Bridge, RT