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Page last updated at 14:16 GMT, Tuesday, 20 May 2008 15:16 UK

Tough penalty urged in Aziz trial

Tariq Aziz in court
Mr Aziz served as foreign minister and deputy prime minister under Saddam

The prosecutor at the trial of the former Iraqi deputy prime minister, Tariq Aziz, has called for a tough penalty to be handed down.

Prosecutor Adnan Ali called for a punishment which would "ease the hearts of widows".

Mr Aziz, once the public face of Saddam Hussein's government abroad, is accused over the deaths of 42 traders executed for sanctions profiteering in 1992.

If found guilty, he could face the death penalty or be jailed for life.

The BBC's Caroline Wyatt in Baghdad says there were sharp exchanges in court as the trial resumed.

Mr Aziz, 72, said his accusers were motivated by vengeance:

"I know it is a plot of personal revenge because the people who are governing Iraq now tried to kill me on the first of April 1980."

He insisted he was still proud to have served the Saddam Hussein's Baath party, and to have been a member of his ruling Revolutionary Command Council.

Delays

Prosecutor Adnan Ali called for a "suitable punishment that will ease the hearts of widows and the oppressed".

TARIQ AZIZ
Born in 1936, near Mosul, northern Iraq
Studied English literature and became a journalist
The most senior Christian in the toppled Saddam Hussein regime
Enlisted US support for war on Iran
Met US President Ronald Reagan at the White House in 1984
Was Saddam Hussein's deputy for more than a decade

Mr Aziz's trial opened three weeks ago, but was stopped immediately when he demanded a new legal team.

His new legal team includes controversial Frenchman Jacques Verges - known as "the Devil's advocate" - as well as four Italian lawyers and a French-Lebanese.

However the trial is now proceeding without the French and Italian lawyers because they have not been given Iraqi visas and it is unclear who will represent Mr Aziz.

Mr Aziz was among the ruling figures who signed the death warrant of 42 merchants accused of raising food prices during international sanctions after the first Gulf War.

He is on trial with former military commander Ali Hassan al-Majid - also known as "Chemical Ali" - and six others.

The trial is being conducted by the Iraqi High Tribunal, which was set up to try members of the former regime and is being presided over by the same judge who sent Saddam Hussein to the gallows in December 2006.

Mr Aziz's family say that after five years in captivity, he is too ill with lung disease to face trial and that he cannot hope to receive a fair hearing under the current Iraqi government.




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