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'Ace of Spades' in court on genocide charges -

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ELEANOR HALL: The public face of Saddam Hussein's regime, Tariq Aziz, has gone on trial in Iraq on
genocide charges.

Iraq's former Deputy Prime Minister is accused of approving the execution of scores of business
people while the country was under economic sanctions.

The 72-year-old has been in US custody for the last five years and if he is found guilty, he could
face death by hanging.

Jennifer Macey reports.

JENNIFER MACEY: He was known as the 'Ace of Spades' in the United States' deck of playing cards of
Iraq's most wanted.

But he was better known as the regime's moderate public face who fronted the cameras in the days
before the US invasion with his trademark black rimmed glasses and Cuban cigars.

TARIQ AZIZ: We still hope that it will not happen because it's bad for us of course, it's bad for
the region and it's bad for the world.

JENNIFER MACEY: Now Tariq Aziz is on trial. The 72-year-old entered the courtroom with a walking
stick, looking frail and weak.

He and seven others are on trial for executing 42 Baghdad merchants in 1992.

The merchants were accused of raising food prices, at a time when Iraq was facing stiff UN economic
sanctions.

Khaled Qasim Arab's (phonetic) father was one of those killed.

KHALED QASIM ARAB (translated): They took my father away around midday, he says. I asked them
"where are you taking him?" They said "don't worry, we'll bring him back soon".

I never saw him alive again.

Abdul Amir Jabbar Nadir also lost close relatives.

ADUL AMIR JABBAR NADIR (translated): My brother and my father were executed, and I escaped
execution by chance. Sons of the merchants who were executed still do not know why they were
executed.

The merchants who were executed had a principal role in lowering prices of commodities, and the
minister of trade, who is now in custody, knows this fact well.

JENNIFER MACEY: News of the trial has been welcomed by the victims' families and by many others in
Iraq.

But some on the streets of Baghdad say he was the Foreign Minister at the time of the incident, and
wasn't directly involved.

IRAQI MAN (translated): He is an artist, a journalist, he has got nothing to do with those
executions. Nothing, this is all a set up. That's my opinion.

JENNIFER MACEY: But the prosecutors of the Iraqi High Tribunal believe there's enough of a case
against Tariq Aziz.

The tribunal was set up to try former members of Saddam Hussein's regime.

Judge Rahim Hassan al-U'kaili (phonetic) says Aziz, and his seven co-defendants, will be charged
with war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity.

RAHIM HASSAN AL-U'KAILI (translated): Tariq Aziz didn't have any role in the issue of the execution
of merchants.

However, his participation in the issuance of two resolutions which stipulated the following - each
one who monopolises foodstuffs for commercial purposes should be executed and his portable and
non-portable properties should be confiscated.

JENNIFER MACEY: The Iraqi High Tribunal also sentenced Saddam Hussein to death by hanging in 2006.

But the court has been criticised by human rights groups who say past trials have suffered from
administrative, procedural and legal defects.

The general coordinator for human rights and democracy organisation in Iraq, Hassan Shaaban says
he's surprised to hear about Tariq Aziz's trial.

HASSAN SHAABAN (translated): On the issue of Tariq Aziz, I think his duties and missions were
pertaining to political and foreign affairs. I am really astonished to see Aziz's name in this
case.

JENNIFER MACEY: The trial has been adjourned until the 22nd of May. If found guilty Tariq Aziz
could be sentenced to death.

ELEANOR HALL: Jennifer Macey reporting.