Tariq Aziz, the former deputy prime minister of Iraq, was sentenced to death Monday for crimes against humanity. Aziz, the ubiquitous media spokesman for Saddam Hussein’s regime, has been in prison since he surrendered to U.S. forces during the Iraq invasion of 2003. After being convicted and sentenced already for numerous crimes, the death sentence leads some analysts to believe that Tariq Aziz has knowledge that many governments want buried forever.
The Tariq Aziz death sentence
Tariq Aziz served under Saddam Hussein as deputy prime minister and later as foreign minister from 1981 to 2003. Iraqi court officials told CNN that 74-year-old Aziz was sentenced to death by hanging for playing a role in the extermination of religious parties during the Hussein regime. He has been serving a 15-year sentence for complicity in the execution of 42 merchants in 1992. Later another seven years were tacked on for a murderous campaign against Iraqi Kurds. His current trial has been under way since December 2009. Badi Arif, Aziz’ former attorney, told CNN the death sentence is politically motivated.
Politics and punishment in Iraq
Tariq Aziz is old and sick. The Christian Science Monitor reports that his attorney and family have lobbied for his release on humanitarian grounds. During the trial, Aziz testified that in his role he was not involved in Saddam Hussein’s decisions. He was sentenced to death by Mahmoud Saleh al-Hassan, a judge who lost an election for a parliament post representing the party of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Maliki’s Dawa Party was one of the Islamic parties persecuted by the Hussein regime. Aziz is a Chaldean Christian, a sect whose persecution by Islamists has gone unreported during the Iraq War.
Dead men tell no tales
During his career, Aziz accumulated a number of stories that many people don’t want told, according to the Guardian. In the 1980s, when Saddam Hussein was viewed as a useful foil against the ayatollahs of Iran, western politicians and business executives sucked up to Aziz, hoping to benefit from the outcome of the Iran/Iraq war. The Guardian’s Mark Seddon writes that Aziz could spill the beans about western influence on Iraq before, during and after the war and because of that, Aziz “has to be got rid of.”