Dubai: Tarek Aziz, Iraq's long-time international face of the Saddam Hussain regime, was sentenced Tuesday to death by hanging.
However his son and sympathisers said the verdict was a surprise. Ziad Tarek Aziz said it was a "political decision" linked to the revelations made about the Iraqi government of Nouri Al Maliki by the WikiLeaks whistleblower website.
"Everybody, including us, is shocked to hear this harsh verdict, which is a politicised and has no legal basis," Ziad Tarek Aziz told Gulf News by telephone from Amman.
Ziad Tarek Aziz said numerous lawyers had said that his father could not be executed under the law since he was over 70 years of age and suffering from various health problems.
Tarek Aziz was sentenced for persecuting members of Shiite religious parties under the former regime.
The Iraqi court also issued death sentences against two other top Saddam lieutenants, former interior minister Saadoun Shaker and Abid Hamoud.
All three were sentenced for their role in a crackdown on Shiites, which followed a 1982 assassination attempt against Saddam in Dujail, the court's spokesman Mohammad Abdul Saheb said.
In previous cases, Tarek Aziz was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison for his role in the 1992 execution of 42 merchants found guilty of profiteering. He also received a seven-year prison sentence for a case involving the forced displacement of Kurds in northern Iraq.
Jordanian lawyer Ziad Khasawneh, head of the former committee of lawyers to defend Saddam, said yesterday's verdict against Aziz, 74, "was not expected".
"The grudge against Aziz started to build up after his announcement that he was proud to be part of the former regime of Saddam," Khasawneh told Gulf News. "These are not legal courts, and they fabricate everything."
Yesterday's verdict appeared to prove revelations posted about the Iraqi government on the WikiLeaks website. WikiLeaks published 391,832 classified US military documents about Iraq on Friday which the website's founder Julian Assange said showed the war was "a bloodbath on every corner". The documents appear to indicate there were numerous reports of abuse of detainees by Iraqi forces.
"It proved that the goal of the Iraqi government is to take revenge from the former regime, the Sunnis and the Ba'athists," Ziad Tarek Aziz said.
"The last time I have spoken to [Tarek Aziz] was two weeks back, and his spirits were fine, but he has health problems," he said.