Iraq's top court yesterday sentenced former deputy premier Tareq Aziz and Saddam Hussein's hatchet-man "Chemical Ali" Hassan al-Majid to 15 years in jail for crimes against humanity.
Aziz and Majid were among eight people on trial at the Iraqi High Tribunal over the 1992 murders of 42 Baghdad traders accused of racketeering while Iraq was under punishing U.N. sanctions imposed after the invasion of Kuwait in 1990. The two key figures in Saddam's ousted regime had risked the death penalty.
It is the first conviction against Aziz, 73, who was Saddam's spokesman to the outside world for two decades but turned himself in after the regime was overthrown by U.S.-led invading forces.
Two of Saddam's half-brothers - Watban Ibrahim al-Hassan and Sabawi Ibrahim - were sentenced to death yesterday.
Yesterday's decision followed a verdict delivered by the Baghdad court on March 2 that condemned Majid, a half brother of Saddam, to his third death sentence over the murder of Shiite Muslims 10 years ago. However, the court had acquitted Aziz on the same charges of crimes against humanity.
Majid himself was first sentenced to death in June 2007 for genocide after ordering the deaths of tens of thousands of Kurds during the 1988 Anfal campaign, when Iraqi forces strafed villages with poison gas, the source of his grim nickname.
He was also given a second death penalty for war crimes and crimes against humanity over a bloody crackdown on Shiites during their ill-fated uprising after the 1991 Gulf War.
He and Aziz, whose acquittal on March 2 was the first verdict from four trials in which he is a defendant, are also accused of displacing and killing about 2,000 clansmen of Kurdish regional president Massud Barzani.
The two men are among 16 former officials also on trial for a brutal 1980s campaign against Shiite Kurds.