Iraq: Tareq Aziz stands for trial
The trial begins on Tuesday of Tareq Aziz, former deputy premier in Saddam Hussein's regime, on charges related to the execution of 42 Baghdad merchants in 1992. It is the fourth trial of former regime officials by the Iraqi High Tribunal (IHT), the court set up to try high-ranking officials under Saddam.
Judge Muneer Haddad from the IHT told AFP that the trial will start on Tuesday. Tareq Aziz and seven others, including "Chemical" Ali Hasan al-Majid, are accused of executing the Baghdad businessmen after blaming them for hiking food prices when Iraq was under UN sanctions.
Prosecutors claim the victims were detained in Baghdad's wholesale markets and executed after a speedy trial in 1992. They also allege that the former regime then seized their money and property.
According to his son, Tareq Aziz is innocent of the charges against him. Ziad Aziz also described the charges against his father as "weak" and aimed at "preventing him from taking advantage of the amnesty law which states that anyone held for a year without being referred to court must be released."
"My father has been in prison for five years... without being charged, tried or investigated," he said, according to AFP. Aziz and Majid, who is already on death row after being convicted of genocide for overseeing the killings of Kurdish villagers in 1988, are the two most high profile defendants in the new trial.
The other six are Watban Ibrahim al-Hassan, half-brother of Saddam and former interior minister; Sabbawi Ibrahim al-Hassan, chief of public security from 1991 to 1995; Mizban Khudier Hadi, a member of the former Revolutionary Command Council; Saddam's secretary Abid Hamid Mahmud; Ahmed Hussein Khudier, a former finance minister; and ex-governor of the central bank Essam Rasheed Khuwaish.
The trial of Aziz will be presided over by Kurdish judge Rauf Rasheed Abdel Rahman, who sentenced Saddam to death in 2006 for his role in the killing of 148 Shiites in the town of Dujail after an assassination attempt against him in 1982.
On Thursday Aziz's lawyer Badie Aref told AFP in the Jordanian capital of Amman that the defence team will attend the trial "if the security situation is suitable."