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Former Iraq deputy PM on hunger strike over access to counsel, lawyer says

[JURIST] Tariq Aziz [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], the Iraqi deputy prime minister under Saddam Hussein's regime, has gone on hunger strike to protest the refusal of prison authorities to grant him access to his lawyer, a member of his legal team said Thursday. Military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Keir-Kevin Curry, however, denied that Aziz began a hunger strike, saying that Aziz has received his meals and met with his lawyer on Wednesday. Izzat Rabih Aref, one of Aziz's lawyers, alleged that prison authorities are refusing to allow Aziz to meet with his defense team because Aziz needs to sign a legal document giving his lawyers the ability to present a case before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website]. Another lawyer for Aziz, Italian lawyer Giovanni Di Stefano [law firm website; Aziz case file], accused the US and the UK of trying to prevent any internationally recognized court from hearing Aziz's case.

The ECHR has agreed to consider a request [text, DOC] by Aziz claiming that his security could be endangered if US forces turn Aziz over to Iraqi authorities. The ECHR, however, first wants to know [press release] which forces Aziz surrendered to in 2003, which forces have detained Aziz since then, as well as where and when those forces intend to hand Aziz over to Iraqi authorities. Di Stefano has said that Aziz turned himself in to what he believed were British forces, but that US and Italian forces were also involved, and that there is no specific date set to turn Aziz over to Iraqi authorities [JURIST report]. AFP has more.

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