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Iraqi High Tribunal opens trial of Saddam-era former deputy PM

[JURIST] The trial of former Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and seven co-defendants began at the Iraqi High Tribunal [official website] in Baghdad on Tuesday. Aziz, deputy prime minister under Saddam Hussein's regime, and his co-defendants are charged in connection with the 1992 execution of 42 merchants accused by Hussein's government of causing a sharp increase in food prices at a time when the United Nations had placed Iraq under strict sanctions. The opening session was delayed for several hours, but Judge Raouf Abdul-Rahman [BBC profile] eventually presided over a brief session before adjourning proceedings until May 20. One of the defendants - Ali Hassan al-Majid [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], known in the Western media as "Chemical Ali" - was not present at Tuesday's trial session due to medical reasons [JURIST report]. AFP has more. BBC News has additional coverage.

This is the latest in a series of trials at the Iraqi High Tribunal involving Hussein-era officials. The first - the so-called Dujail case [BBC trial timeline; JURIST news archive] - resulted in Hussein's execution after he was found guilty [JURIST reports] of crimes against humanity. Five defendants were later convicted in the Anfal case [BBC trial timeline; JURIST news archive], and three defendants were sentenced to death in that case, including al-Majid. The Anfal death sentences have not yet been carried out [JURIST report]. A third crimes against humanity case against al-Majid and several co-defendants is ongoing [JURIST report]; the charges in this case are connected to the defendants' alleged role in the violent suppression of a predominately Shi'a uprising [HRW backgrounder] in southern Iraq following the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

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