By K.I. Ibrahim
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, March 12, 2009
BAGHDAD, March 11 -- An Iraqi court sentenced the country's former foreign minister, Tariq Aziz, and Ali Hassan al-Majeed, a senior adviser to Saddam Hussein, to 15 years in prison Wednesday for their roles in what the court deemed a crime against humanity, the 1992 killings of 42 merchants accused of profiteering.
The sentence was the first for Aziz, 73, a fluent English speaker who was the international face of Hussein's government before turning himself in to U.S. authorities a month after the Iraqi government fell in April 2003. It comes less than two weeks after Aziz was acquitted by the same court, Iraq's highest, in another case.
Two of Hussein's half brothers, Watban Ibrahim al-Hassan and Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hassan, were sentenced to death for their role in the executions.
"Long live Iraq! Long live Iraq! Down with the occupiers!" Sabawi al-Hassan shouted as the verdict was read aloud in the courtroom.
The men were among eight on trial for the killings of the Baghdad traders, who were accused of price gouging while the country was under devastating U.N. sanctions imposed after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990. The merchants were given a summary trial, then executed without the opportunity to appeal their verdicts.
Abed Hammoud, Hussein's secretary, was sentenced to life in prison. Mizban Khidr Hadi, a top Baath Party official, was given 15 years. A six-year term was handed down to Ahmad Hussein Khudeir, the head of the presidential office. Former Central Bank governor Essam Rasheed Huwaish was acquitted.
Majeed, the adviser, is already under three death sentences, the first in the case that gave him the moniker by which he is popularly known, "Chemical Ali." In June 2007, a court convicted him of genocide for ordering the deaths of tens of thousands of Kurds in the 1988 Anfal campaign, when Iraqi forces used chemical weapons against Kurdish civilians.
Aziz was a well-known figure in Iraq, serving as foreign minister, then deputy prime minister. But he was never thought to wield real power within Hussein's inner circle. Aziz's family has complained that he is in poor health, suffering from heart and respiratory problems and diabetes.
Elsewhere in Iraq on Wednesday, a car bomb detonated near the College of Medicine in the northern city of Mosul, killing three Iraqi soldiers and wounding 10 people. And in the disputed city of Kirkuk, Iraqi police said a car bomb detonated near an elementary school, killing one person and wounding 13 others.
Special correspondent Dlovan Brwari in Mosul contributed to this report.