Page last updated at 13:06 GMT, Thursday, 24 April 2008 14:06 UK

Aziz trial set to start in Iraq

Tariq Aziz
Tariq Aziz was the international face of Saddam's government for years

Iraq's former Deputy Prime Minister, Tariq Aziz, and other senior officials are to be tried over the deaths of a group of merchants, officials say.

The men, who served under Saddam Hussein, will appear in court on 29 April, the officials say.

They include Saddam Hussein's half-brother, Watban Ibrahim al-Hassan.

The men are accused of involvement in the execution of about 40 merchants in 1992, although the exact charges they face are not yet known.

The merchants were rounded up and accused of manipulating food prices.

This occurred at a time when Iraq was under international sanctions. The merchants were executed hours later.

Regime on trial

Also among the eight officials facing trial over the deaths is Ali Hassan al-Majid, also known as Chemical Ali, the AFP news agency reports.

Ali Hassan al-Majid is already on death row after being convicted of leading a campaign in the late 1980s in which tens of thousands of Iraqi Kurdish civilians were killed.

The Iraqi High Tribunal was set up to try former members of Saddam's regime.

Saddam Hussein himself was executed in December 2006 after being convicted of crimes against humanity for the killing of 148 Shia men and boys after a 1982 assassination attempt against him.

Judge Rauf Rasheed Abdel Rahman, an Iraqi Kurd, will preside at the trial. He is the same judge who sentenced Saddam Hussein to death.

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